After winning Best Actor for his role in Joker, Joaquin Phoenix delivered an Oscar acceptance speech full of references to humanity's impact on the environment. Now, Phoenix — along with a few other well-known actors — is taking another stand for the climate with a short film.
The short film, “Guardians of Life,” follows a team of doctors desperately trying to save a patient who doesn’t seem to be responding to emergency heart surgery. Take a guess as to whom the patient metaphorically represents. Here’s what else we know.
Who else is in Guardians of Life?
At the end of the rather cheesy-if-well-produced movie, Kilcher shows a persistent hopefulness that's a reminder of what humans can still do to make sure Earth's fate isn't sealed. And it a subtle twist, the movie calls out why working in tandem with indigenous communities is vital.
What do critics say?
While the movie isn't yet on Rotten Tomatoes, film critic Peter Bradshaw has weighed in with a review in The Guardian — and he's not a fan. Bradshaw gave the short film two stars out of five, saying the intention is "laudable" but that it "makes no sense." He does give props to Kilcher, calling her a "dramatic presence," but overall says the film is ultimately burdened by "messy and ineffective conceit." Ouch.
How can I watch it?
The movie is available to stream on Vimeo. (It’s also embedded at the bottom of this article, so keep reading.)
Why does this exist?
Guardians of Life is part of a project called Mobilize Earth, which aims to “mitigate the climate and ecological emergency by bringing together people from all walks of life.”
The nonprofit has partnered with Extinction Rebellion and Amazon Watch, and together, the groups say they’re working to mobilize activists, politicians, industry members, farmers, and immigrants “to respond to the climate and ecological emergency.”
For Phoenix, the short film is a “call to action.”
“I did it to raise awareness about the meat and dairy industry’s effect on climate change," Phoenix said in a statement. "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."
What’s the deal with Joaquin and environmental activism?
Joaquin Phoenix is a lifelong vegan — in fact, his entire family went animal product-free in 1977, including his siblings River, Rain, and Liberty. (That was shortly after the children's parents fled the religious cult known as the Children of God.)
In addition to his recent statements on climate change, at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes, Phoenix has been outspoken about issues with both animal cruelty and climate impact in the livestock industry. In January, he even attended a vigil for pigs outside an LA-area slaughterhouse.
"We fear the idea of personal change, because we think we need to sacrifice something; to give something up," he said during his Oscars speech. "But human beings at our best are so creative and inventive, and we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and the environment."
Phoenix closed the speech with a lyric his brother, River, wrote at age 17: "Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.”
In his quest to raise awareness, spur climate action, and maybe save the world, Phoenix has already picked up a few fans. Lena Dunham even tweeted that "Joaquin Phoenix made me vegan," so, there's that.
Here's the movie that's getting traction on Vimeo: