Critics Are Raving About Gunda, a New Film Executively Produced by Joaquin Phoenix

Critics Are Raving About Gunda, a New Film Executively Produced by Joaquin Phoenix

  • Hannah Bugga
  • Hannah Bugga

Critics are raving about Gunda, a new film from Russian director Victor Kossakovsky and executive producer Joaquin Phoenix. Shot in beautiful black and white at farms in Europe, the film intimately follows the lives of a mother pig, a flock of chickens, and a herd of cows. Kossakovsky’s film encourages viewers to immerse themselves in the experience of his subjects and reflect on our relationship with the beings people often consider food.

Although its release date is April 16, the film already has a 97 percent positive rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Noticeably absent in Gunda are music and human beings—two elements that could have distracted from the experience of the animals. Instead, the film uses ambient noise and moves at a slow, deliberate pace. Kossakovsky described his work:

I wanted to eliminate voiceover, any slaughtering, any blood. Because a lot of films are made about this, and people are still not getting it. Now we will just look at them and look how they are and maybe people will get it. I decided to eliminate music. I can make emotional film and people will cry, without manipulating them.

All 90 minutes of Gunda are devoted to the animals—the mother pig the film was named after, her piglets, a one-legged chicken, and a host of other intriguing animals—as they go about their daily lives. Movie critic Radheyan Simonpillai of Toronto’s NOW Magazine wrote:

Kossakovsky’s achingly beautiful black-and-white documentary is ground-breaking and wondrous for its intimacy, getting unbelievably up-close-and-personal with farm animals showing off their personalities. Among them are a mother pig and her litter who feed, frolic and tug at your emotions in ways you may not be able to handle.

Throughout the post-production work in Poland and sound work in Russia, a reported 60 percent of the film’s crew told Kossakovsky they could no longer eat meat.

Kossakovsky was inspired to show Joaquin Phoenix the film after hearing the actor’s powerful speech at the 2020 Oscars in which he mentioned animal rights. After seeing the film, Phoenix eagerly signed on as executive producer. In a Q&A, Phoenix said:

I was so moved and it felt like it was an entirely new experience for me. And I think that’s what’s special about the film—that it is an experience.

Eager to experience Gunda yourself? Click HERE to find theaters showing the film or to sign up to host your own screening.

You can make a difference for pigs like Gunda, one-legged chickens, and all other animals today by eating more plant-based foods. Download our free Vegetarian Starter Guide to learn more.