3 user 1 critic

An Apology to Elephants (2013)

Narrated by Lily Tomlin, this documentary short traces mankind's long history with elephants and explores the many problems that arise when they are brought to live in captivity in zoos and circuses.


Amy Schatz


Jane Wagner
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win. See more awards »


Learn more

More Like This 

Documentary | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

For the third time, HBO cameras go inside Trenton State Maximum Security Prison--and inside the mind of one of the most prolific killers in U.S. history--in this gripping documentary. Mafia... See full summary »

Director: Arthur Ginsberg
Stars: Richard Kuklinski, Park Dietz
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

This filmed version of Lily Tomlin's successful one-woman performance piece is sometimes classified as a "documentary."

Director: John Bailey
Stars: Lily Tomlin
Documentary | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

In 2016, USA Gymnastics was rocked by the revelation that national team doctor Larry Nassar had been abusing young athletes for decades. Tribeca alum Erin Lee Carr's unflinching documentary... See full summary »

Director: Erin Lee Carr
Stars: Rosemarie Aquilina, Aimee Boorman, Nadia Comaneci
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Seventy years after WWII, Oskar Gröning, one of the last surviving members of the SS, goes on trial as an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Director: Matthew Shoychet
Stars: Oskar Gröning, Jeff Ansell, Hedy Bohm
Dancing with the Birds (TV Series 2019)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

From ruffling their majestic feathers to nailing im-peck-able courtship routines, birds in paradise flaunt their best moves in hopes of landing a mate.

Stars: Stephen Fry
Documentary | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A woman in Pakistan sentenced to death for falling in love becomes a rare survivor of the country's harsh judicial system.

Director: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
Stars: Asad Jamal, Saba
Lily (TV Special 1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Director: Bill Davis
Stars: Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Gerber
Jane II (2017)
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

The life and work of the renowned primatology scientist, Jane Goodall, especially on her research about chimpanzees.

Director: Brett Morgen
Stars: Jane Goodall, Hugo Van Lawick, Hugo Eric Louis van Lawick
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3/10 X  

A lonely socialite and a young drifter enter into a May-December romance.

Director: Jane Wagner
Stars: Lily Tomlin, John Travolta, Andra Akers
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.

Director: Lee Fulkerson
Stars: Lee Fulkerson, Matthew Lederman, Alona Pulde
A Dog Year (2009)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

A guy suffering from a midlife crisis takes in a dog that's crazier than he is.

Director: George LaVoo
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Lauren Ambrose, Lois Smith
Radium Girls (2018)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

In the 1920s a group of factory workers advocate for safer work conditions after some of their colleagues become ill from radium exposure.

Directors: Lydia Dean Pilcher, Ginny Mohler
Stars: Joey King, Abby Quinn, Cara Seymour


Credited cast:
Lily Tomlin ... Herself - Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Pat Derby ... Herself (PAWS)
Colleen Kinzley ... Herself (Oakland Zoo)
Jeff Kinzley ... Himself (Oakland Zoo)
Ross MacPhee ... Himself
Rose McCoy ... Herself (activist)
Cynthia Moss ... Herself (Amboseli Trust for Elephants)
Joel Parrott ... Himself (Oakland Zoo)
Katy Payne ... Herself (Elephant Listening Project)
Joyce Poole ... Herself (ElephantVoices)
Mel Richardson ... Himself (veterinarian)
Ed Stewart ... Himself (PAWSsanctuaries)


Narrated by Lily Tomlin, this documentary short traces mankind's long history with elephants and explores the many problems that arise when they are brought to live in captivity in zoos and circuses.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | Short


TV-PG | See all certifications »


Official Sites:

Official site





Release Date:

12 April 2013 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Apologia Aos Elefantes See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

HBO Documentary Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Himself (veterinarian): What is the problem with the elephant in the room? The room. That's the problem. Elephants don't belong in barns. They don't belong in rooms. Their body evolved to be moving. They need to move. They don't need to stand still; they don't need to stand still on concrete and hard surfaces.
See more »


Featured in 2013 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards (2013) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

History of Pachadermal Treatment
21 February 2016 | by redryan64See all my reviews

THAT ANIMALS HAVE abilities that are akin to our own seems to be a startling recent discovery to a large segment of our society. We congratulate them on catching up with what our so-called animal lovers have known since the earliest of times. Be it instinctive or by virtue of our experiences, animal intelligence, personality, memory and feelings has come to be a sort of undisputed fact.

CREATURES THAT MOST of us know are of the small to medium range in size and can be found in shelters, pet shops and at some of our neighbors' houses. Kittens anyone? But it seems that the larger and more exotic the species, the greater is the complex intelligence, behavior and individuality.

THE FILM WE are reviewing manages to make a case for our long enslaved pachyderms. Meaning "Thick Skinned" the word is derived from Greek or Latin (one or the other) and lends its name to this fascinating order of the Animal Kingdom called Mammals.

THE FILM DOES a fine job in covering all of that basic scientific data; including touching on the old Family Tree. Mammoths, Mastodons and Gomphotheres. (look them up, Schultz). They also remind us that in the wild, they are far fewer in numbers all the time.

BUT THE MAIN message here is how the elephant is faring in the modern world of captivity. Circuses and Zoos are the chief targets. Whereas (according to the narration) there does seem to be hope for Zoological Parks, but the Circus is out. They contend that the methods and practices traditionally employed are cruel, unnatural and heartless to the animal.

THE NARRATION AND storyline brings us a history of the elephant in captivity,. dating into antiquity. The cave paintings, ancient armies and employment of the great beast as building & excavation specialist are reviewed.

WHAT WAS PARTICULARLY disturbing and disappointing was the story of a Coney Island Indian Elephant named Topsy. Following some dangerous encounters with trainers, the owners sold Topsy to be used in an electronic experiment to demonstrate the negative properties of Alternating Current. The elephant was electrocuted by the company of Thomas Edison.

THERE IS NO doubt that the whole slant of the film is one of anti-circus ownership and employment of elephants for entertainment. That fanaticism that is so often displayed by those individuals who become involved in causes seems to be at work here. The trouble with a typical zealot is that they care not so much about the fairness and veracity of their work so much as is its ability to influence its audience.

TO REALLY GIVE a true and fairly rendered production, the production team had an obligation to depict some more pachyderm friendly institutions and their keepers.

THE Arguments PRESENTED are powerful, but we see that there is one positive here. There is extensive breeding of both African and Indian Elephants in captivity. This could be a potential tool in countering the widespread illegal hunting of the animals that could lead to extinction.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 3 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Recently Viewed