40,000 BCE
 
RISING FIRE, an early human, flees with her small daughter KONA as her people are attacked by a violent invading tribe -- the LION MEN. When she is inadvertently saved by one of the last NEANDERTHALS, the two struggle to communicate and find trust. 
But when the Lion Men return, they become the key to one another's survival – and the future of humanity.
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Entering production Fall 2021, The Lion and the Firebird is a radical new vision of the ancient past, inspired by recent breakthroughs in the understanding of Neanderthal anatomy, language, and culture. The film explores love and prejudice, violence and cooperation, and why these ancients vanished from the world - or did they?​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
 
SLOAN SCIENCE AWARD
The Lion and the Firebird was awarded the prestigious Sloan Science Grant in Anthropology for 2021, designed to support exceptional Science in Filmmaking
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The film explores two questions central to the study of Neanderthals: what happened to them, and what were their social, technological, and morphological capabilities, specifically language? Anatomical scans combined with computer modeling of the Neanderthal vocal tract and software analysis allow us to simulate their vocal capabilities like never before, and will be foundational to our creation of their sounds and language. 
Recent archaeological finds including body paint, adornments such as shells and talons, burial sites laid with flowers, and fire use allow us to create a portrait of these ancient humans that is more complex, specific, and based in physical evidence than ever before seen on film. 
Genetics and geology also feature in answering the complex question of Neanderthal’s disappearance, and the film treats with all of them. The film was developed in collaboration with Dr. Anna Goldfield of the UC Davis Paleoanthropology Department.

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