In May 2016, the endangered western lowland gorilla was shot and killed after a 3-year-old boy fell into its enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. The Zoo said the boy crawled through a barrier and landed in the moat. Harambe, a 17-year-old male gorilla weighing more than 400 pounds, grabbed and dragged the screaming child around the habitat for about 10 minutes.
Personnel from the zoo’s dangerous animal response team decided to shoot and kill the gorilla to ensure the boy’s survival, the zoo said.
The film heavily criticizes the way the Cincinnati Zoo handled the situation.
“The documentary will present new proof that Harambe tried to return the boy to his parents, yet still viewed as a threat and was killed instead,” reads a description of the film on the Esquire Theatre’s website.
The zoo has previously spoken to this issue. After the incident, the zoo said members of its response team tried to recall Harambe. Their attempts were unsuccessful. Members of the team said the child’s life was in danger, and officials made the decision to use lethal force to ensure the safety of the child. Minutes later, the boy was safe and Harambe was dead.
Following his death, the zoo modified Gorilla World by raising the external barriers of the enclosure by six inches, putting them between 41 and 42 inches tall. Nylon netting is also in place to make sure small children can’t fall into the enclosure in the future.
According to the Esquire’s website, the film is packed with unreleased pictures and videos of Harambe. It also features exclusive interviews by Will Travers OBE and Dame Virginia McKenna of Born Free Foundation, wildlife expert Ian Redmond OBE, TMZ and Hollywood Raw podcast host Dax Holt, Dan Van Coppenolle (named Harambe), and Jeff McCurry, Harambe’s personal photographer.
News of Harambe’s death quickly moved around the world. And after the initial shock and outrage, the internet quickly did what it does best in the wake of tragedy: make a meme about it.
In the weeks and months after the ape’s death, his name appeared in tongue-in-cheek petitions to rename the hometown Cincinnati Bengals, to add his face to Mount Rushmore or the Lincoln Memorial, and to put him on the dollar bill. He has grown the angel wings and halo of a deity in social media memorials. He’s even been mock-nominated for president.
The Cincinnati Zoo initially spoke out against the seemingly countless jokes made at Harambe’s expense.
“We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe,” Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo director, said by email shortly after the gorilla’s death. “Our zoo family is still healing, and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us. We are honoring Harambe by redoubling our gorilla conservation efforts and encouraging others to join us.”
You can find more information about tickets to see the documentary here. Currently the only showtime listed is 3 p.m. on September 24.