“I was very naively planning to do this as a short, happily ever after story,” says Ashley Bell about her feature-length documentary Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story.

Following a recent Awardsline screening of the film, Bell, perhaps best known for her performances in The Last Exorcism films, explained what drew her to write, direct and produce this moving chronicle of an often harrowing rescue of an Asian elephant from a brutal life in captivity.

Love & Bananas, submitted for a Best Documentary Feature Oscar, focuses on the heroic work in Thailand of elephant conservationist Lek Chailert, a woman who routinely risks her life to save the endangered Asian elephants from unimaginable cruelty.

“Through it all, Lek’s spirit was just this indomitable force,” says Bell, “working with such hope and love and miracles…You literally see an elephant become an elephant again with what she’s able to give to them.”

To hear more from Deadline’s conversation with Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story director Ashley Bell, click above.