We’ve seen a huge rise in documentary films outlining the power of veganism and the importance of cutting down on our meat consumption to save the planet. Many have tried, including Netflix’s recent documentary, Seaspiracy, but have often fallen short on the facts and have been accused of misrepresentation. 

These documentaries are often overshadowed by hard hitting facts, which, of course, is important in discussing our impact on the animal world and environment, until now. 

Enter Gunda, a new American-Norwegian silent documentary film that follows the daily life of a pig, two cows and a one-legged chicken. And before you say anything, we were a little dubious about how effective a silent, black-and-white film could be for spreading environmental and plant-based messages, but it manages to create a compelling argument for why it’s important to act now. 

Directed by Viktor Kossakovsky and with Joaquin Phoenix as executive producer, Gunda is a vital viewing this summer. 

Read on to find out more…

What’s it about?

Don’t expect any narrations, music or even sub titles here, Gunda is simply a portrayal of a small patch of farm animals as they exist day-to-day. 

The documentary follows the daily life of a group of farmyard animals. There’s a mother sow, Gunda, who we see trot along, going about her day with her little piglets. We see the litter of piglets grow, feeding off the sow and playing with one another.

Alongside the pigs, we also meet two cows and a one-legged chicken. Shots of them running in slow motion greet audiences, while frames of sprawling farmland echo in the background. 

We’re never shown the farmers or any humans at all. It’s solely a story surrounding the animals and their livelihoods, which is refreshing as it offers animals a voice for a change, rather than centring their story around human life.

Who’s behind it?

At the head of this masterpiece is Russian documentary filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky. Known for his films Aquarela, The Belovs and Hush!, Kossakovsky used his magic and co-wrote, co-edited and directed Gunda. 

The name you’ve probably seen associated with the film however, is vegan Hollywood star, Joaquin Phoenix. Famed for his starring role in the 2019 Joker, Phoenix has been very public about his veganism and beliefs, and is executive producer on Gunda

When receiving the Oscar for his performance in Joker, he slammed the dairy industry and made it his mission to raise awareness of the damaging effects of human consumption. Looking back at his speech, it seems like the obvious move that Phoenix would go on to help produce films with a lingering vegan fronted narrative.

Is it worth catching?

Sure, the concept of a silent, black-and-white film about a group of farmyard animals might not appeal to all audiences, but it definitely deserves the accolade it’s getting. 

It’s not the first documentary to show the importance of the natural world, and it won’t be the last, but it’s the first time we really see ourselves through the eyes of the animals. Andrea Arnold is another filmmaker trying to break the rules of filmmaking, with her new release. Arnold’s Cow is a film that’s taken six years to execute, showcasing the life of a dairy farm cow. 

It’s no secret what happens on a farm. Animals are bred to be slaughtered, for the profit of humans. And without giving too much away, as you can imagine, this narrative doesn’t have a happy ending. Gunda makes you empathise with the animals and see life through their eyes, all while with the subtle message of veganism and why we should be rethinking our diets.

Where can I watch it?

Viktor Kossakovsky’s Gunda is in cinemas across the UK right now. Check out the trailer below to see what’s in store.

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