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The latest documentary from the director of “Demain” shows two teenagers trying to understand the ecological challenges facing their generation. An engaging, sensitive and haunting film that seeks to raise awareness of the threat of species extinction.
“Animal” begins with a hard-hitting message: if nothing is done to curb global warming in the next 50 years, 50% of the earth’s animal species could become extinct. This is what scientists call the sixth mass extinction. Elephants, lions, birds, insects – they are all threatened. Soils are being eaten away by pesticides, damaged by the thousands of tons of plastic that flow into them, mobilisations for the climate seem to have too little effect… Cyril Dion’s observation is irrefutable. But instead of losing himself in pessimistic speculations, the author, who won the César for best documentary for “Demain”, has decided to raise awareness through the eyes of the younger generation. In his new film, a road movie structured like a mise en abyme, he has chosen to focus on the risks of the decline of the animal kingdom. With a key message: we need to change our relationship with living things, because humans are ultimately just one animal among many.
To get his message across, Cyril Dion follows the wanderings of Briton Bella Lack and Frenchman Vipulan Puvaneswaran, two teenagers aged 16 at the time of filming who are vegans committed to the climate and biodiversity. They are young, smart, well aware of the ecological challenges and, above all, determined to shift the lines by proving that we are deeply connected to all other species.
Between anger and hope
The director accompanied them on a great initiatory journey around the world to see the devastating consequences of soil and forest pollution. They went to the huge rubbish beaches of India, discovered factory farming, snuck behind the scenes of the European Parliament in Brussels, met scientists, politicians and farmers who had launched environmental initiatives, including the famous primatologist Jane Goodall… Bella and Vipulan also travelled to Costa Rica, where the state has banned deforestation and is now subsidising the economy so that the forest is not destroyed. Between anger, amazement and wonder, the two teenagers learn that there are no easy answers and that nothing is completely black or white.
Despite their sometimes disillusioned expressions, Bella and Vipulan do not deliver a “No Future” speech. Cyril Dion portrays a generation that has not given up hope and is willing to change its habits to save the planet. “Before every shoot, Vipulan asked if we could take the train instead of the plane or walk to avoid the car,” reported Cyril Dion, who offset the film’s carbon footprint by donating to organisations fighting global warming. After being screened at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, “Animal” is nominated for the 2022 Césars documentary award.