Following up his Oscar-nominated lead role in Joker, Joaquin Phoenix stars in a new, two minute film titled Guardians of Life, which aims to draw attention to global wildfires – including the recent blazes in the Amazon Rainforest and Australia – deforestation, and the climate crisis as a whole.
The new short film, which released today, is produced in partnership with Extinction Rebellion and Amazon Watch, starring (alongside Phoenix): Rosario Dawson, Matthew Modine, Oona Chaplin, Adria Arjona, Albert Hammond Jr, and Q’orianka Kilcher.
An “alarm call” for deforestation, biodiversity loss, and the plight of indigenous communities, it urges action on the climate and ecological emergency by following events in an emergency room.
“I wanted to try something other than documentary footage and statistics to evoke positive change,” Shaun Monson, the director, tells Dazed. “So I pitched the team at Extinction Rebellion and Amazon Watch a story set in an ER where people are fighting to save an unseen patient on a gurney.”
“But it becomes a metaphor for something much bigger.”
That metaphor primarily centres around one of the issues in the climate justice movement that speaks to Monson the most: “big agriculture, which is one of the top three most destructive industries on earth.”
The actor and activist Matthew Modine adds: “I have been witness to great expanses of open land become developed into subdivisions and strip malls.”
“Globally, we behave as if the resources and diverse life forms of and on the earth are infinite and there for our plucking. They are not. The resources are finite and the mass extinction of life forms happening all around us and everyday is an omen of our present future.”
Both Modine and Monson agree that not enough is being done to combat these climate issues in government (and it’s no wonder, with Donald Trump’s offensive rants about Greta Thunberg and celebrities calling for action where world leaders have failed to do so).
But, Monson says, art such as Guardians of Life helps get the message across. “Actors, by definition, are emotion enablers,” he says. “So they not only breathe life into words on a page, but they create an energy.”
“Perhaps art and filmmaking can reach people in ways that, sadly, melting ice caps and starving, wayward polar bears cannot?”