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Joaquin Phoenix: Documentary Gunda ‘Isn’t vegan propaganda. It’s just facts.’

It’s not just a fringe group of people that are really soft and tree-huggers and they just care about everything. There is a disconnect when it comes to our food. And that’s not vegan propaganda, that’s just facts.

MARK OLSEN: As he made his way through the pre-pandemic awards season last year, picking up trophies for his performance in “Joker,” actor Joaquin Phoenix gave an increasingly powerful series of speeches. Phoenix seemed to recognize the influence of the platform he was being given on some of the world’s most celebrated stages, and he made the most of it with a string of moving and emotional statements — addressing representation and inclusion at the BAFTAs and conveying a moving message at the Oscars for animal rights. Filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky did not see Phoenix’s speech that night, but almost immediately his phone began ringing with friends and collaborators telling him Phoenix’s message was the same as that of his latest documentary, “Gunda.”

Kossakovsky’s producer got the film to Phoenix, who signed on as an executive producer. In the film, which is now playing in theaters in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, there are no subtitles, no voiceover, not even music, just elegant black-and-white images of animals living their lives. A chicken raised in a cage touches grass for the first time, a herd of cows is released into a field, and a pig named Gunda, on a farm in Norway, tends to her litter of piglets, nurturing them, caring for them, showing them love, making tough decisions and exhibiting deep anguish when tragedy strikes…

For Phoenix, adding his name and lending his time to “Gunda” seems to be drawn from the same impulse behind his intentional use of his awards season spotlight. If he often seems wary of the public eye, he is nevertheless going to make the most of it to bring attention to issues he cares about… In a published director’s note, Kossakovsky stated, “I have always wanted to make a film about the creatures with whom we share the earth, a film about animals as living, feeling beings in their own right. I wanted to make a film without patronizing or humanizing them, without any sentimentality, and without vegan propaganda.”

Both the filmmaker and his new supporter are committed vegans, but Kossakovsky explained what he meant by “vegan propaganda.” “It’s easy to push emotion, especially with the ending I have, and if I put violins or cellos, music, something like that, of course, if I would make vegan propaganda, half the people would not watch it,” said Kossakovsky…

In talking about the film, Kossakovsky extols some of the overwhelming statistics on the sheer numbers of animals killed each year for food production around the world and the vast amount of natural resources consumed as part of that process. With the world population continuing to grow, those numbers also continue to climb. “And that’s not vegan propaganda, that’s just facts,” interjected Phoenix.

“I understand Victor is an artist and he created this film to be experienced. But for me, there is a very strong message behind it,” said Phoenix. “For people to experience animals the way I think they do with their dog, they understand the value of their dogs or their cats. They understand that they have unique personalities and they share videos of them. But somehow there is a disconnect when it comes to our food. And it’s just because of what we’ve been indoctrinated with and what we’ve been taught. As Victor is saying, it has become completely out of proportion with what is sustainable.

“It’s not just a fringe group of people that are really soft and tree-huggers and they just care about everything. It’s just f— facts,” said Phoenix. “We’re destroying the world and our children, our grandchildren are going to pay for it. And I don’t think that we are aware of it, many people aren’t. And so it is absolutely, I think, one of the great issues that we are facing today that needs to be addressed because we are running out of time.” SOURCE…


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