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Cinéma Vérité: ‘Gunda’ is not Vegan propaganda, but it is a revolution of empathy

Communicating with animals, surprised us every day. They are able to joke, to sacrifice, to help each other, to smile, to experience freedom, same way as we. They are able to be happy.

CARLOS AGUILAR: No stranger to unique subject matter affecting the world at large, Russian documentarian Viktor Kossakovsky went from a project about water, “Aquarela,” to his latest one about a charismatic pig, “Gunda.” Although the idea for a film about farm animals had been percolating in his mind for over 20 years, it took him a long time to convince people these non-verbal subjects would make for an interesting story. While making “Aquarela” and becoming aware of the challenges facing humanity, such as the fact that over one billion in the world don’t have access to clean water, he questioned our relationship to the environment. One key point being the resources utilized to produce meat, from the deforestation that feeding the animals entails to transportation. He believes the pandemic is directly related to humans’ “arrogant behavior towards nature.”

“Slowly I came to this conclusion that enough is enough. We are killing over a billion pigs a year. We are killing half a billion cows every year. We are killing over 50 billion chickens a year. We are killing over a trillion fish a year… it’s totally absurd. And we don’t even talk about it. We don’t even think about it. We ignore it. We know that breakfast didn’t appear from a tree, but we pretend we don’t know. So it’s made me think that we are creating our own grave,“ he said during a Q&A conducted for the International Documentary Association’s annual screening series…

On a philosophical and emotional level, the experience was singularly rewarding for him and his team because they were rethinking their understanding of animals. “Every day after filming, all of my team, we felt we were becoming different people. We were becoming better. Every day of communicating with animals, surprised us every day. Every day we say they are able to joke, they able to sacrifice, they able to help each other. They’re able to smile. They are able to experience freedom, same way as we. They are able to be happy. Every day we were coming back and we were opening a new dimension in our life. I saw my team, one by one become vegetarian,” he noted candidly…

Kossakovsky wanted to stay away from the cruelty that films with the same intent usually focus on, such as slaughterhouses or the terrible living conditions in some farms. He believes those films didn’t change minds or hearts, and took a different approach highlighting the personalities of his protagonists… “I said, ‘We will do the opposite, we will do a revolution of empathy. We will say, ‘Let’s look at them how they are. Not how we behave with them, but how they are. This is why we didn’t even use music. Of course, when you have such an ending you can put a violin there and cello and people will cry. But we said, ‘No. We don’t push. We are not doing a vegan propaganda film. We just let people watch,” he noted. SOURCE…

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