Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story Movie Poster Image
Poignant but intense docu on plight of Asian elephants.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 75 minutes

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Positive Messages

Shows what one person can do to bring about positive change. Asian elephants, endangered and exploited, are taken out of abusive captivity and freed to play and frolic in nature preserves in Thailand. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lek Chailert has devoted her life to the preservation of Asian elephants, at tremendous personal cost. By standing up for what she believes in, many Asian elephants now live cruelty-free lives in nature preserves, away from poachers and those who exploit them for the entertainment of tourists. 


Young elephants shown being beaten with sticks, chains, and sickles in a box. Elephants who have been disfigured due to land mines and human exploitation are shown. Talk of how an elephant's eye was shot out with a slingshot. Elephant legs shown bloodied from abuse at the hands of humans, elephant bodies shown scarred from abuse at the hands of humans. 


"Hell" said once. 

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story is a 2018 documentary about the work conservationist Lek Chailert is doing to rescue Asian elephants from cruel captivity. There are some intense scenes in which young elephants are shown being taken from their mothers, then placed in a "crush box" where they are beaten with sticks and chains for 24 hours straight until they are "broken" for training -- to be ridden by tourists or taught to perform in circuses. There are scenes of elephants who have lost legs from stepping on land mines, whose legs are bloodied from abuse, and whose bodies are scarred from abuse at the hands of humans. An elephant who lost an eye from getting hit with a slingshot is shown. These scenes and discussion of the cruelty and exploitation that Asian elephants suffer might be too intense for younger viewers and sensitive animal lovers of any age. Overall, this informative documentary showcases the positive work that conservationist Lek Chailert has achieved by rescuing elephants from cruel captivity and keeping them safe and happier in nature preserves where they're free to move around and frolic with other elephants. 

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What's the story?

LOVE & BANANAS: AN ELEPHANT STORY centers on the 480-mile journey of Noi Na, a 70-year-old Asian elephant that has been taken from a trekking camp. Noi Na's story is used to illuminate the plight of Asian elephants throughout Thailand. Many are separated from their mothers and placed in "crush boxes," where they are beaten with sticks and chains for 24 hours until they are "broken," and thus ready to be trained to give rides to tourists, or to perform tricks in circuses and "paint" pictures. Traveling with a crew from Los Angeles, filmmaker Ashley Bell meets with internationally renowned conservationist Lek Chailert as she works with elephants who have suffered from human abuse and exploitation. She takes them to a nature preserve where they are free from poachers and other forms of cruelty at the hands of humanity. It's a difficult journey for Noi Na, riding in the back of a truck during very hot weather and after a lifetime of negative associations with travel in vehicles. The documentary also shows the transformation of the man who had kept Noi Na on his trek camp, and how, by being inspired to want to change for the better by converting his camp into an elephant sanctuary, is now more successful than he had ever been with the trek camp. 

Is it any good?

Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story is a poignant, sad, but ultimately hopeful documentary on the plight of Asian elephants. By showing the story of Noi Na -- a nearly blind, 70-year-old elephant who has suffered a lifetime of human abuse and exploitation -- the current plight of Asian elephants is brought to light in vivid detail. Noi Na's journey highlights the work of world-renowned conservationist Lek Chailert, who has devoted her life to saving Asian elephants from extinction and rescuing them from an abuse that's as mentally and emotionally devastating for elephants as it is physical. 

Some of the scenes, especially in the beginning, are intense, especially for animal lovers of any age. Elephants are shown being separated from their mothers and placed in "crush boxes," then beaten with sticks and chains until they are "broken" to be ridden on by tourists or taught to "perform" in circuses. Other scenes show elephants disfigured from injuries sustained after stepping on land mines, or after getting blinded by slingshots. But these difficult scenes are offset with a sense of hope, especially in the documentary's last scenes, as we see what the smallest of positive steps can accomplish, and what just one dedicated person can achieve. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about nature documentaries. How does this compare to other nature documentaries you've seen? 

  • How did the documentary present facts about Asian elephants? What new information did you learn?

  • Were the scenes in which elephants were shown being beaten, exploited, and abused necessary for the documentary's overall message, or were they too much to take, especially for animal lovers? What do you think would be lost in the documentary if these scenes weren't shown? 

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