Leeds director's comedy with Romesh Ranganathan about pandemic's 'real issues'

A Yorkshire film director has released a short 'mockumentary' film starring comedian Romesh Ranganathan to challenge the notion that bats are to blame for the coronavirus pandemic.

Independent television production company, Chief Productions, which as an office in Leeds, has released the deadpan film to highlight "the real issues" behind the Covid-19 outbreak.

The World Health Organization has said that all available evidence shows that Covid-19 has an unidentified "zoonotic source" - it is a disease that can be transmitted from animals to people - but the film explores the destruction of natural habitats, the illegal wildlife trade and over-consumption, which the filmmakers argue are the root causes of the pandemic.

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Filmed in May during lockdown, the film is a collaboration between two of the production company’s directors: Nate Camponi, who is based at Chief Productions in Leeds, and Chris Cottam in LA.

Romesh Ranganathan stars as a rabbit in the film. Picture: Chief Prodcutions.

The quick-witted mockumentary, which was shot in both directors’ respective countries over four days, "gives a voice to some of the animal species who have fallen victim to human behaviour" over the years, say publicists, including pangolins, rats, pigs, birds, rabbits and bats.

Mr Camponi said: “Coronavirus is a real wake up call for the severe negative impact that environmental damage is having on our planet and ultimately ourselves.

"It’s obvious that the current crisis could have been avoided if more had been done to protect the natural habitats of bats and other species.

“As the world started to shut down, we thought we should make valuable use of our time, talents and contacts to provide an alternative and important view of the pandemic.

The film has been made by directors in Leeds and LA. Picture: Chief Productions.

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Ranganathan, who plays a rabbit that has endured a lifetime of cosmetic testing in a science lab, provides the voice of reason in the short film.

Speaking about the importance of the project, he said: “Conservation is an essential battle that often falls to the bottom of people’s priorities. It’s important to keep it consistently high on the agenda.”

The Bat **** mockumentary has even been welcomed by Bat Conservation International (BCI), a conservation organisation dedicated to ending bat extinctions and helping to change negative perceptions of a creature that has been around for more than 60 million years.

Nate Camponi. Credit: Chief Productions.

Winifred Frick, chief scientist at BCI, said the "video gets at the truth of why scapegoating wildlife is part of the problem not the solution of protecting people and the planet.

"The short mockumentary provides a much-needed laugh alongside a good dose of science-based reality that we’re to blame for this pandemic, not the bats.”

One of the world’s most misunderstood species, bats play a vital role in restoring our natural ecosystems, according to the filmmakers.

There are more 1,400 different species of bats, which are spread out across six continents, yet nearly 200 species are threatened with extinction.

The film, which is available to view on YouTube, is the latest in a series of short-form films from Chief Productions aimed at raising awareness of environmental issues.

The multi-award-winning company, headquartered in MediaCityUK and with offices in Leeds, London, Sydney & Cape Town, gained acclaim for its recent brand-funded documentary work including Ubisoft’s Wildlands, Woolmark’s Slowing down fast fashion with Alex James and Dennis Rodman’s Big Bang in Pyong Yang, which enjoyed mainstream distribution across Netflix, Showtime, BBC iPlayer, Google Play and Amazon Prime.

In 2015, Chief Production’s Green Santa, a 12-part series designed to educate and entertain children about the ecological issues affecting the planet, was commissioned by CITV and nominated for a BAFTA.