Victor Kossakovsky

Norway, USA , 2020 / 93 min / Without words / Documentary

Collaboration neimënster
Followed by a roundtable discussion with Camille Brunel (writer, vegan & animal rights activist), Brigitte Gothière (founder, L214) & Dr. Bérit Majeres (in charge of animal well-being, Administration des Services Vétérinaires) Moderator: Nicolas Léonard (editor-in-chief,

Pigs, cows and chickens. Intimate portraits of living beings who wind up dead on our plates every day.

Gunda is a sow, one among hundreds of millions worldwide. She lives on a farm in Norway, cares for her young piglets and shares the meadows with a few chickens and a small herd of cows. They all go about their daily routines, they peck, graze and roll in the mud, catch worms and brush away flies. But what is really going on inside them? In industrialised societies, more than a billion pigs and cows, as well as over 20 billion chickens are often not treated as the sentient beings they are. Humans are conditioned to ignore the sentience of domesticated animals, often regarded as a passive resource. By returning a pig's gaze, listening to a cow's gentle lowing, or observing a chicken find its wings, Victor Kossakovsky’s intimate portrait highlights their individuality and leads us to reflect on our own, human behaviour, voiding any pretension that we are unique in our capacity for emotion, consciousness or will. Immersed in these animals’ lives, it becomes inescapable that humankind must swiftly undertake the major changes necessary to end mass exploitation of our fellow creatures.

Gunda is a mesmerising perspective on sentience within animal species, normally – and perhaps purposely – hidden from our view. Displays of pride and reverence, amusement and bliss at a pig’s inquisitive young; her panic, despair and utter defeat in the face of cruel trickery, are validations of just how similarly all species react and cope with events in our respective lives. Victor Kossakovsky has crafted a visceral meditation on existence that transcends the normal barriers that separate species. It is a film of profound importance and artistry.” Joaquin Phoenix, Executive Producer

Fri 05/03 19:00 Neimënster Without words Public
Sat 06/03 10:00 Sans paroles Public

“Countless films offer invaluable portraits of wildlife, and beloved pets have been at the center of indelible screen stories. But few movies commune with the class of animals that are generally regarded as resources rather than sentient beings. […] With its discreet yet intimate long takes, the new doc rewards patience and attentiveness in every frame. And it could very well change hearts and minds. […] Avoiding the shock and gore of some anti-meat treatises, Kossakovsky instead, like the astute storyteller he is, zeroes in on his characters, cloven-hoofed or clawed as they may be, building toward a final sequence that's as affecting as any ever put to film. […] But Gunda is far more than a plea or argument; it's a gorgeous, gripping series of encounters […] a soul-stirring meditation on some of our most underappreciated fellow earthlings […] — and, finally, an unforgettable drama.” Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, 23/02/2020 

“Kossakovsky treats common farm animals as subjects, not objects, of intense fascination and empathy: a crucial distinction in a film that sets out to challenge our society’s perception of livestock as, well, less live than stock. […] Kossakovsky isn’t out to lecture or confront his audience with moral rhetoric or shock imagery, but to encourage understanding of farm animal life as it’s being lived — not just valuable at the point of death. […] To describe Gunda as any kind of pro-vegan screed, however, would be to misrepresent the ruminative, poetic delicacy of its approach. Its radiantly beautiful imagery and gently immersive storytelling aren’t in service of a single browbeating message, but a broader, holistic view of where we and the animals we rear, use and consume fit into a single circle of life.” Guy Lodge, Variety, 29/02/2020 

“Some viewers may be sceptical of the way that Kossakovsky uses elegant, even lyrical camerawork to elevate seemingly base material: cinematically, this may seem like making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. But you don’t have to be an animal lover to appreciate the craft and the genuine poetic vision of a film which, though strictly unsentimental, is intensely moving, transfixing and quite genuinely unique.” Jonathan Romney, ScreenDaily, 23/02/2020

“Russian filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky’s mesmerizing achievement removes humans from the picture to magnify the small moments in the lives of various farm animals […] Devoid of music or any other obvious artifice, “Gunda” neither aims to document animal consciousness or anthropomorphize it. Instead, Kossakovsky’s fascinating non-narrative experiment burrows into the center of his subject’s nervous system, meeting the creatures on their own terms in a remarkable plea for empathy that only implores carnivores to think twice by implication. […] While Werner Herzog might contemplate these animals’ dreams, Kossakovsky’s aim is to inhabit the mundanity of their daily rituals, normalizing them for a viewership that wouldn’t know where to start.” Eric Kohn, IndieWire, 23/02/2020

“Victor Kossakovsky's eclectic, dialogue-free film observes farm animals going through the motions with some delightful black-and-white cinematography. […] It demands audience engagement and imagination if the viewer wants to piece together the images into a story or to look for the clues that provide the film with its theme and message.” Kaleem Aftab, Cineuropa, 23/02/2020

Gunda is an extraordinarily impactful, loving, and urgent film and the more people stumble upon it, because they are lured by a magnificent pig with the cutest piglets, shot in poised black and white, the better off they will be. […] There is no narration, no text on the screen and you don’t miss them for a second. The language captured here speaks volumes. The animals’ faces, their reactions and movements, remind doubters of their sentient nature in every shot. […] Without showing any images of mass farming or slaughter instruments, Gunda sends a most forceful message about gratitude, respect and humility and the horrors that humans unleash on the world every day, every hour” Ann-Katrin Titze, Eye for Film, 17/09/2020

Cast & Credits
Victor Kossakovsky, Ainara Vera
Egil Håskjold Larsen, Victor Kossakovsky
Alexandr Dudarev
Sant & Usant, Louverture Films
Periscoop Film

Victor Kossakovsky is a Russian documentary filmmaker born in the Soviet Union in 1961. He began his film career at the Leningrad Documentary Films Studio as assistant cameraman, assistant director, and editor in 1978. In 1988, he graduated from the VGIK’s High Courses for Scriptwriters and Film Directors in Moscow with the documentary short Losev. Four years later, his first feature Belovy (1992) won both the Joris Ivens Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary and the Audience Award at IDFA. His films have since won over 100 awards and prizes. His 2018 documentary Aquarela premiered at the Venice Film Festival from where it went on to tour numerous other festivals. His latest documentary, Gunda (2020), premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival.

  • 2020 – Gunda (documentary)
  • 2018 – Aquarela (documentary)
  • 2016 – Graine de champion (documentary)
  • 2015 – Varicella (documentary short)
  • 2013 – Demonstration (documentary)
  • 2012 – Vozdushnyy displey (documentary short)
  • 2011 – ¡Vivan las antipodas! (documentary)
  • 2005 – Syvato (documentary short)
  • 2003 – Tishe! (documentary)
  • 2001 – I Loved You… (documentary)
  • 1998 – Pavel i Lyalya (documentary short)
  • 1997 – Sreda (documentary)
  • 1992 – Belovy (documentary)
  • 1989 – Losev (documentary short)