This fascinating film was made by Henry Singer, who also famously produced the disturbing 9/11: The Falling Man. And this film about conservationist Joan Root was every bit as disturbing, if less graphic in content.
Joan and her husband Alan had been pioneers of wildlife film-making during the sixties and seventies, however, when Alan left Joan for another woman, she took refuge in their house on the shores of Lake Naivasha, which was ultimately to become her passion and the cause of her death.
That said though, nobody has ever been convicted of Joan’s brutal murder, but it’s widely assumed that her dedication to protecting the lake from polluters and poachers was motive enough to kill Joan.
Singer presented Joan with remarkably little bias for a man who must’ve come to know her well through his extensive research into her tragic death. And Joan was a woman who could’ve been judged as either naïve and interfering or an heroic campaigner for ecological issues.
To the people of the village, she was the former. She employed a group of what amounted to vigilantes to patrol and protect the lake she loved so much, but their methods were brutal, and eventually, Joan was forced to confront the fact that her representatives were using violence to stop poaching.
However, the very word ‘poaching’ is something of a uniquely Western word, for the villagers who fished the lake would argue – and they did – that they were simply trying to provide food for their families.
Another theory put forward for why Joan was killed was her long running feud with a neighbour – who’d previously been arrested over the murder of another neighbour, though not convicted – as well as disgruntled ex-employees.
The film didn’t offer any revelatory answers, nor did it pretend to, and in fact it arguably asked yet more questions about the mystery. But it was a fascinating watch.
The story really could be from the pen of any famous crime writer, so convoluted and mysterious is it, but as often happens, real life imitates fiction and this story, were it less barbaric and horribly real, could come to the attention of Poirot.
If it will ever be solved is as much a mystery as anything else about Root’s murder, but she’s a sad loss, of that there’s no doubt.