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Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix has unveiled his next film after Joker – a short film with Extinction Rebellion and Amazon Watch – that urges action on the climate and ecological emergency.
Phoenix is joined in the film, Guardians of Life, by an array of Hollywood stars including Rosario Dawson, Matthew Modine, Q’orianka Kilcher, Oona Chaplin, Adria Arjona and Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes.
A Public Service Announcement
The two-minute short film, set in an Emergency Room, launched a new campaign to engage the public in different aspects of the climate and ecological emergency.
It acts as a Public Service Announcement (PSA) for the plight of the Amazon and its indigenous communities, and an alarm call for deforestation and biodiversity loss taking place in every corner of the globe as a result of devastating wildfires, droughts, floods and storms.
Joaquin Phoenix has history of activism. He was recently arrested at a protest organised by the actress Jane Fonda in Washington DC, where he spoke about the link between climate change and animal agriculture.
‘It’s really a call to action. I did it to raise awareness about the meat and dairy industry’s effect on climate change. The fact is we are clear cutting and burning rainforests and seeing the negative effects of those actions worldwide. People don’t realize there’s still time, but only if we act now and make sweeping changes to our consumption. We can’t wait for governments to solve these problems for us. We can’t wait until the election to try to make these changes. We have a personal responsibility to make changes in our own lives and act now.’
Actor and climate activist
Art reflecting life
Shaun Monson, the film’s director, said he felt compelled to make the film as previous documentary-style PSAs had failed to move audiences to take action. ‘Instead of focusing on deforestation, ice melting and species extinction, we use a story as a metaphor’, Shaun explains.
‘The Amazon has been called the lungs of the world, or the heart of the world, but instead of documentary footage we proposed an ER setting with doctors and nurses trying to save an unseen patient with systemic heart failure. The twist is not only who one of the paramedics is, but what they were really fighting to save all along.’
‘This film is very important for us at this moment. It demonstrates the artists’ engagement in Amazon protection by showing the key role indigenous peoples play in defending the forests, the planet, and life itself.’
Executive coordinator of the Articulation of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB)
Leila Salazar-López of Amazon Watch believes the film is an example of art reflecting life: ‘An indigenous woman saving the Amazon is not a metaphor’, she says, ‘it is a daily reality as the rainforest is razed and indigenous lands are invaded for profit. The Amazon rainforest is the heart of our world, and indigenous forest guardians are central to its well-being and to our collective future.’
‘Opening people’s eyes’
For Matthew Modine, one of the film’s stars, the climate and ecological emergency means: ‘children inheriting a world unrecognizable to the one I was born into […] this PSA is one way of opening people’s eyes to see what is actually happening right in front of us.’
The film’s female lead, Q’orianka Kilcher said: ‘As an indigenous actress I feel a strong responsibility to use my public platform to help amplify the voices who are seldom heard including all the indigenous defenders around the world who are the protectors of our Mother Earth, the Amazon Rainforest, and all the biodiversity and animals.’
Funding for the film has come from a variety of organisations, including the UK-based Catalysts Foundation and the global Climate Save Movement.