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Gunda, Victor Kossakovsky
Gunda, Victor Kossakovskyvia Berlin International Film Festival

Joaquin Phoenix is producing a film about the sentience of a pig

‘Gunda is a mesmerising perspective on sentience within animal species, normally – and perhaps purposely – hidden from our view’

Since taking on the Oscar-winning lead role in Joker last year, the actor and long-time activist Joaquin Phoenix has made a series of statements and protests, including a pledge to save waste by only wearing one suit throughout awards season.

He’s also made a series of speeches at the various ceremonies, on climate and animal rights issues, including his Oscar acceptance speech in which he namechecks human egocentricity and the artificial insemination of cows.

As a result, it’s not completely surprising that Phoenix is lending his voice to a new film that explores the sentience of a pig. The actor will serve as an executive director on Gunda, the dialogue-free documentary by the Russian filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky, which just premiered in Berlin.

Gunda is a mesmerising perspective on sentience within animal species, normally and perhaps purposely hidden from our view,” Phoenix tells Screen Daily. 

“Displays of pride and reverence, amusement and bliss at a pig’s inquisitive young; her panic, despair and utter defeat in the face of cruel trickery, are validations of just how similarly all species react and cope with events in our respective lives.”

“It is a film of profound importance and artistry.”

Kossakovsky’s previous film, 2018’s Aquarela, similarly explores a world outside of an anthropocentric perspective. “A better world! A better world,” he says, in an interview with Another Man. “This planet belongs to water; we’re just here accidentally.”

Joaquin Phoenix has also recently starred in a climate emergency film, Guardians of Life, in partnership with Extinction Rebellion.