“Joker” star Joaquin Phoenix has linked with environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion and non-profit organization Amazon Watch for a short film sounding the alarm around deforestation and global wildfires.
“Guardians of Life,” which Variety reveals exclusively above, also stars Rosario Dawson, Matthew Modine, Oona Chaplin, Q’orianka Kilcher and musician Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes – all of whom play a medical team racing to save an unseen patient dying of heart failure on the operating table.
Describing the two-minute film as a call to action, Phoenix said: “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.”
Phoenix delivered a rousing acceptance speech at the BAFTAs on Sunday, calling out “systemic racism” in the film industry, just hours after he led a protest in London with animal activists, advocating for veganism.
The actor was last month arrested for his part in a Washington D.C. protest with Jane Fonda, where he again discussed the link between climate change and animal agriculture.
“Guardians of Life” is the first of 12 films exploring the effects of climate change. The series is led by Extinction Rebellion and Mobilize Earth, and funded by a variety of organizations, including the U.K.-based Catalysts Foundation, as well as the global Climate Save Movement. Additional supporters include the Artists for the Amazon campaign and Environmental Media Association. Donations from the film go towards Amazon Watch and Extinction Rebellion.
Director Shaun Monson said he felt compelled to make the film in the style of a narrative short as documentary-style PSAs aren’t always effective in moving audiences to take action. “Instead of focusing on deforestation, ice melting and species extinction, we use a story as a metaphor,” he explained.
“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.”
Actor Matthew Modine added: “Children (are) 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.”
Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, said the film demonstrates how Hollywood is using its influence to take on the climate and ecological crisis. “There is still a disconnect between how bad things are and the action that needs to happen. But that gap is narrowing. There are more significant people starting to break ranks, to tell the truth and act as if it is real.”