Project Description

The Primate Citizen | 시민오랑 (In Progress)

‘The Primate Citizen’ follows the unprecedented challenge to break down the social and legal wall for orangutan Sandra to find a better place to live for her. In 2015, the only orangutan in Argentina, Sandra, was given the legal status, “subject of rights”, from a court. That implies that she should be able to live in an appropriate space for her species and be treated as an intelligent being, not just kept in her enclosure in the Buenos Aires Zoo.

Sandra’s lawyers proposed to the court to send Sandra to a privately owned sanctuary in Brazil or the But the owner of Sandra, Buenos Aires Zoo, insists that the best place for her will be an improved enclosure in the zoo that has been transformed into an eco-park. The lawyers face another obstacle. Sandra is legally a ‘subject of rights’ in Argentina. But if Sandra moves to a sanctuary outside the country, she wouldn’t be able to maintain that legal status. To keep the status, she should have a kind of passport to guarantee her rights and to travel outside the country.

Sandra’s judge, Elena Liberatori, tries to make the best legal decision with her advisory committee, but her views are also trapped between the zoo, the sanctuary and the wild. This is a dilemma without solution but there has to be an acceptable one. With Sandra’s birth in the zoo, humans made a mistake in the first place. Where does Sandra prefer to live? If Sandra prefers to live in a zoo, can we accept her decision? How much freedom do we allow for Sandra?

In April 2018, the judge will decide the final place where Sandra will be transferred. Florida sanctuary seems the most likely. Depending on a medical requirement and permits from legal and health authorities Sandra’s destination will be confirmed. Shall she move to a new home?

Director SINAE HA
Length 80′ | 52′
Shooting Format UHD | 3840 X 2160 | 24p
Languages Spanish | Germany | English
Subtitles English | Korean
Starting Date of Shooting October 2016
Delivery Date June 2020
With Support Of Korea Creative Contents Agency  (Korea)| Foundation For Broadcast Culture (Korea) | Co-pro market in Dok Leipzig (Germany) | Mardoc in Mar del Plata Film Festival (Argentina) | The Edinburg Pitch (UK) | AND Project in Busan International Film Festival (Korea)
In Progress 70%

CURRENT STATUS:  Shooting (70%), Editing (30%)     

Director’s Note

The legal situation with Sandra really intrigued me. It is unique and exceptional. I live in Seoul, Korea, and the main values of Korean society are cost effectiveness and money. When a similar case happened in Korea in 2015, the orangutan named Orang-ee lost the case for financial reasons. There was nobody to take economical responsibility for his emigration to an Indonesian sanctuary. The result disappointed because the court regards the orangutan as property of an owner, as an object. However, Sandra’s case is different. The court in Argentina took the decision in December 2014 that Sandra is a ‘subject of rights,’ not an object. ‘The Primate Citizen’ is about legal and social battles with orangutan Sandra as a non-human person to get rights for an adequate space to live in, the right to privacy when she chooses, the right to socialization with either other animals or people when she chooses, the right of freedom and choice, and the right to be in a stimulating environment. The most astonishing thing is Argentina’s society itself. Argentina has been an overwhelmingly Christian country. During most of history, Christian thinkers believed that human beings are greatly superior to animals. But deep inside the Andes cultures, people believe that Water, Earth, Sun and Moon have its own life and right as the prime origin.

The deeper I get into Sandra’s case, the more I realize its dilemma without adequate solutions. When I saw Sandra in the zoo, I would have liked to ask Sandra what she prefers and which is the best place for her. I couldn’t do it. Nobody, not even her zookeepers, know what kind of place she would like to live in. How do we know what is on her mind? Pablo, Sandra’s lawyer, insists that the best place is a sanctuary. But is it really the best for Sandra? To get there, she would have to leave her own place in the zoo and adapt to a new home, this time with chimpanzees. For me, the sanctuary also looks like an enclosure, just bigger and with grass and trees.
The judge, Elena, said, “The dilemma has no solutions.” The most important thing is how do we make a decision for the better. If Sandra’s case has an effect on the next generation, it is the best.

– Director Sinae Ha

Zonta Club Leipzig Elster Female Talent Development Prize in Dok Co-Pro Market of Dok Leipzig 2017