New Documentary Cow Brings Cannes Film Festival Audiences to Tears
Cow is a heart-wrenching documentary that tells the tale of Luma, a cow used for milk. The footage was shot over four years at a rural farm in England and shows the relentless cycle of mental and physical suffering cows endure at dairy farms.
Cow is the first feature-length documentary from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Andrea Arnold. She, along with Polish cinematographer Magda Kowalczyk, used handheld cameras to truly gain the perspective of her subjects. Viewers experience the entire film from the point of view of the mother cow as her body deteriorates through years of exploitation.
The film begins with Luma giving birth to her daughter, who is swiftly taken away by farmworkers as her mother cries out in desperation. Viewers meet two of Luma’s daughters, both coldly torn from their mother’s side. Such powerful moments reveal the agony mother cows all over the world endure for the sake of dairy. In an interview, Arnold said:
I’ve had plenty of people say to me afterwards they had no clue that’s how milk came about. Obviously they knew milk came from cows, but they didn’t realise that calves were taken to produce milk.
The 94-minute documentary not only captures the crushing devastation of losing her babies but follows Luma through her monotonous routine. She is milked in dark milking sheds, and she is forcibly impregnated. She gives birth, and the cycle starts again. The film offers a brief moment of happiness when cows are temporarily released into green pastures. The moment only underscores their joyless existence. Arnold shared:
A lot of my friends were crying at that screening. The next night, we had another screening, and it was the same. I think lots of people don’t always know why it’s affected them in that way.
The films Cow and Gunda do an excellent job of showing viewers the world from the animals’ perspective. Neither is narrated or pushes an agenda—they simply present reality. And the reality is that animals suffer terribly so that people can consume meat, milk, and eggs.
While the film premiered at Cannes, it launched in UK cinemas on January 14 and will be available for streaming on MUBI in mid-February.
Looking to make the world a kinder place for animals like Luma? Download our free veg starter guide for tips and tricks on adding more plant-based foods to your routine.