The Black Mambas

: Documentary Short
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Completed


South Africa’s first and only all-female, anti-poaching unit, fighting on the frontline to rescue their country’s rhino population from the edge of extinction.


Formed by local, Black women from communities surrounding the Kruger Park, The Black Mambas is an anti-poaching unit unlike any other. Military-trained, yet unarmed, they are having an enormous impact on the frontlines of a battle to shield South Africa’s threatened rhino population from the edge of extinction.


As a South African filmmaker and storyteller, I’ve always cared very deeply for the content and stories that come from my country. Like the people of South Africa, the stories are complex, characterful and diverse, and where there is hardship and adversity, there are always people willing to rise to the challenge and make a positive difference. It’s a country of many heroes, from the towering figures of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, to those working in schools, townships and out in the open bush, like our Black Mambas. Yet, content that emerges from South Africa seems overwhelmingly negative and entrenched in the past. There is of course truth to this, and value in sharing these stories and healing deep wounds, but I’m driven by something different. I feel audiences have been offered much the same for years, a perspective that is negative and ultimately limited in its scope, not giving voice to a new South Africa. I equate it to the issue of rhino poaching, where devastating news reaches us every day, of how these animals are on the brink of extinction. Reports are increasingly alarming, and like so much that is happening in our world, the temptation is to throw ones hands in the air and lose hope in finding a way through. But then you discover women out there, The Black Mambas, who have accepted the challenge, are meeting it head-on and working tirelessly to have a positive impact in the world. It reminds you that there are always people doing good work, there is always a way forward and it’s these people and these stories that I find myself most drawn to. My film, The Black Mambas, sets out to get the balance of this story right. The issue at its core is a very serious one, and the danger these women find themselves in each day, is very real and very threatening. However, their attitude is positive, their passion is fully-charged and they face each day with a hopeful outlook. This was vital to how the film was recorded and presented. Through steadicams, we tracked the Mambas through the bush, to immerse the viewer in their world, to experience the threat by walking alongside them. Through unprecedented permission to operate drones, we were able to capture the vastness of their terrain, and the immensity of the challenge they face. By doing this, we wanted the audience to understand and appreciate their work, and in doing so offer them the respect they so deeply deserve. My goal is never to sugarcoat anything, to find the balance in the story and offer the audience as rich and layered an experience as possible. Through the tension, the hope, the pain and the humor present in this film, I believe we’ve told it as honestly as possible. As we prepare to send it out into the world, my biggest desire is that it offers a new, refreshing and inspiring perspective of what is happening in South Africa.


Bruce Donnelly - Director/Producer

South African-born film director and producer, Bruce first pursued his film career studying at the University of Cape Town, and later at the New York Film Academy. Now based in New York City, Bruce is the founder of DKR Films. He has been the director and producer of a number of film, television and commercial projects, most recently for the Samsung Galaxy S8, a commercial produced in partnership with Discovery Channel.

His work also includes the highly-acclaimed Cuban documentary film Alumbrones, which follows a group of graphic artists in Havana and tells of their many inspirations and struggles on the island. The film premiered in Piccadilly Circus in London at the Raindance Film Festival and was selected by the United Nations, Global Peace and American Documentary Film Festivals among others, with special presentations and panels at Stanford and Harvard Universities. Alumbrones was recently incorporated into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Library collection.

Returning to film in his home country, Bruce most recently produced and directed a film entitled: The Black Mambas, telling the story of South Africa’s first and only all-female rhino anti-poaching unit. The film has received international acclaim, winning Best International Short Film at the Oscar-qualifying American Documentary Film Festival, Jozi Film Festival and Wellington Independent Film Festival. 


Connect With The Filmmakers:


The Gotham Film & Media Institute - Fiscal Sponsorship Program 2021
Winner** Best International Short Film (American Documentary Film Festival 2018)
Winner** - Best International Documentary Short (Wellington Independent Film Festival)
Winner** Best International Short Film (Jozi Film Festival 2018)
Official Selection - Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Official Selection - DOC NYC Film Festival 2018
Official Selection - Edmonton International Film Festival 2018
Official Selection - Environmental Film Festival in our Nation's Capitol
Official Selection - Kansas City FilmFest International
Official Selection - ShortShorts International Film Festival and Asia Market (Japan)
Official Selection - Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival
Official Selection - EarthX Film Festival (Dallas, Texas)
Official Selection - Blue Danube Film Festival 2018


Help promote my fundraising campaign
Put our donation widget on your website

Get Widget Code



The Gotham Logo


© 2021 The Gotham. All Rights Reserved.
   Design by Andrew Martin

The Gotham Film & Media Institute is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding, developing and celebrating the people and projects that shape the future of story.

Learn more about us or become a member