Tipping Point

//Tipping Point
Tipping Point 2018-04-23T16:40:15+00:00

Project Description

Our new film draws into sharp focus the sheer horror of rhino poaching and its threat to the species.

Tipping Point is in the line of socially conscious films such as Syriana (2005, dir. Stephen Gaghan), Blood Diamond (2006, dir. Edward Zwick) and The Big Short (2015, dir. Adam McKay), all of which successfully married themes of contemporary injustice with powerful storytelling – broaching topics of the oil industry, child soldiers and the sub-prime mortgage industry respectively.

Project Summary

PROJECT TITLE: Tipping Point

LOGLINE: In an unscrupulous world where rhino horn is prized above gold, a journalist, a veterinarian, a poacher and an undercover cop all commit unrelated crimes to protect themselves and their families – setting their lives on an unavoidable collision course.

GENRE: Thriller / Drama

BUDGET: USD $2.5 million

PRODUCTION: 5 weeks, South Africa



WRITER: Gerhard Pretorius

DIRECTORS: Meg Rickards & Bert Haitsma

PRODUCERS: Paul Egan & Kim Williams




TARGET AUDIENCE: Ages 16 to 34, international & local

STRUCTURE: South African production / treaty co-production


Robin, an idealistic journalist, travels back to South Africa, the land of her birth, and transgresses every journalistic code to get to the truth of what happened.

David, a South African veterinarian, is hell-bent on avenging his pregnant wife’s murder.

Tariro, a destitute Mozambican, succumbs to the lure of the proceeds of poaching to earn the respect of his sons.

Quinn, an undercover cop and anti-poaching trainer, penetrates the intimate workings of a poaching syndicate: by joining its ranks.

These four characters’ lives intersect in the dusty town of Musina, on South Africa’s border with Zimbabwe, the nexus of the secretive rhino horn trade.

Each of them – in desperation – breaks the rules in some way, until their fates chillingly collide head-on.

Statement from Directors Meg Rickards & Bert Haitsma

May 2016

Tipping Point unfolds in the dusty, dilapidated border town of Musina – South Africa’s Wild West. The characters form a micro-cosmos of this secretive rhino horn trade: from crooked officials to cynical judges, from poor poachers to brazen crime kingpins.

We home in on four very real, relatable main characters: a vengeful vet; a poor poacher; an obsessive documentary maker and an undercover cop. Their lives intersect in a shady nether-world where ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are relative concepts; where questionable choices trigger volatile situations. For sooner or later, each character faces a thorny moral dilemma, compelling the viewer to consider: What would I do in the same situation?  And, does the end justify the means?

By aligning its audience with characters’ moral conundrums, the film challenges its viewer not only intellectually, but also ethically.

While on the one hand the title Tipping Point refers to the looming extinction of rhinos, on the other it alludes to the moments when our characters cross a moral line. As the scales tip, they slowly but surely slide towards a chaotic end.

The violence is, as in most thrillers, a constant in Tipping Point, subtly manifesting itself in the minds and actions of our characters – less graphic than psychological. Nonetheless, when it comes to the poaching scenes, blood and gore are necessary to evoke strong emotions in the viewer and to place this crisis at the epicentre of public consciousness.

As directors we believe passionately in the ability of film – if not to change the world – at least to nudge it in more just, compassionate directions.

As we hover near the tipping point for rhinos, we need multi-pronged approaches to tackle the crisis. Our film – a timely thriller that draws its audience into a tangled world of corruption, greed and courage – is one contribution to the battle.


Film has the capacity to reach audiences and even to inspire change in ways that other less visceral mediums are simply not able to match.

Not only will Tipping Point be gripping entertainment, we also believe in the power of our film to raise awareness of the rhino poaching crisis.

When the film Philadelphia (dir. Jonathan Demme) came out in 1993, the decision to cast the wholesome Tom Hanks as a homosexual man dying of an Aids-related illness did more to confront homophobia and destigmatise HIV/Aids than any number of government programmes.

Key to the fight against rhino poaching is reducing demand for horn. Over previous decades, intensive international pressure led to a marked decline in rhino poaching and trade. By the mid-1990s, virtually all major consuming countries had trade bans in place, with the result that losses in South Africa between 1990 and 2005 dropped to an average of 14 rhinos a year.

However, since 2005, the killings have surged, reaching a staggering 1028 animals in 2017. This is largely due to growing demand from Vietnam, now the largest market for rhino horn.

Despite various initiatives to compel Vietnam to improve law enforcement and curtail consumption, the slaughter of rhinos continues unabated. The growth of demand in Vietnam is relatively recent, and appears to be linked directly with increasing levels of disposable income. This of course raises the possibility of growing demand in other burgeoning economies.

On the supply side, global inequality is brought into sharp relief. The majority of poaching incidents in South Africa take place in the Kruger-Limpopo National Parks, on the border with Mozambique, where, according to the World Bank, over half the population lives in poverty. It is hardly surprising that Mozambican nationals are estimated to be involved in 80 to 90 percent of rhino poaching incidents in the parks. Mozambican police and military have also been implicated in the poaching.

The rhino horn trade is vastly complex and our film avoids easy didacticism and blanket judgment,
acknowledging the economic disparities – along with the greed – which enable the industry to thrive.

Clearly poaching requires a rapid global response, and sustained pressure on governments of lands where poaching and trade continue to flourish. Our team has a track record of making films that explore issues in a subtle yet emotive way. 1994: the bloody miracle has been used extensively to ignite dialogue around democracy and the complexity of reconciliation; while Tess candidly explores women and child abuse.

Our new film draws into sharp focus the sheer horror of rhino poaching and its threat to the species. Given film’s power to transcend borders and to inform popular cultural attitudes, we are confident that Tipping Point will help raise awareness of the crisis and inspire action to tackle it.