Inspired by a true story
New Zealand Film Commission
A Ceylonese teenager, his lifelong elephant companion, and a runaway Maori girl flee the law, the press, and a vigilante farmer in an all-or-nothing chase across 1960s New Zealand.
Ayun, a teenage mahout, sings to communicate Kandula, an elephant and his lifelong companion. They share an unbreakable bond and impressive lineage - both are among the last of their lines, eking out a living salvaging timber from the Ceylonese jungle. But life is upended when disaster forces Ayun’s mother, Danara, to sell Kandula to a New Zealand zoo. When the cruel handler arrives to collect, Kandula won’t budge. Desperate to delay their parting, Ayun swears he will deliver Kandula safely.
After making landfall, Kandula refuses to board the truck, and Ayun commits to walk the elephant four hundred miles to Auckland. Ready to leave, Kandula helps Hana, a Maori runaway, to escape harbour security. Hana says she’s their perfect guide to New Zealand. A failing news editor receives a tip that an elephant is on the loose. He sends gossip columnist, Delia Blaze, to report.
All is well until they run into Farmer McInnis, who fires warning shots that send the elephant trio fleeing. Constable Johnny Wiseman investigates the dust-up with the farmer, who lies that Kandula tried to trample him. When Delia reports the story, the editor turns it into a beat-up making Kandula public enemy number one. With the press, police and McInnis - farmer turned vigilante - after them, the elephant trio go on the lam.
McInnis almost shoots Kandula during a wild road chase. The kids and the elephant go bush. After hungry, cold days in the wilderness, dodging
McInnis and a helicopter search party, they blunder out to see a train steaming into a valley. Snow falls, and the trio follow the rail tracks to keep clear of the roads. Struggling through the snowstorm, they find the train derailed. Kandula frees the passengers but is critically injured and collapses. Ayun sings the elephant to his feet, and he, Hana and Kandula become heroes even as the final heartbreak draws near.
At the zoo, Ayun can’t face the final goodbye. Yet, karma intersects with fate. Danara, his mother, has been brought to New Zealand. As neither Ayun nor Kandula will survive parting, Ayun is made a member a zoo team member.
Ayun and Hana watch a lady elephant saunter towards Kandula. Ayun takes Hana’s hand as Kandula links trunks with his newfound mate.