UNLOCKING THE CAGE, but I suspect you do have to care enough about animals not to want to see them abused -- particularly those species who have been proven to be "cognitively complex," as have chimps, dolphins, whales and elephants. (This last one was news to TrustMovies, who grew up believing the old saw that an elephant never forgets. Evidently they do a hell of a lot more than merely that.)
Chris Hegedus (at left) and D.A. Pennebaker (below) -- who've given us a fine bunch of documentaries from Town Bloody Hall through The War Room, Moon Over Broadway, Elaine Stritch at Liberty and more recently the delightful Kings of Pastry -- this new one is among the most moving of all of their work. As usual, though, the pair never attempts to jerk tears:
Steven Wise (below) and his legal team, known as the Nonhuman Rights Project, but also a few of the animals (especially certain chimpanzees) for whom Wise and team are trying to obtain "limited personhood rights." Does this mean we must concede that these animals are the same as people? Not quite. Wise is quick to acknowledge the differences, while maintaining the need for greater protection via increased "rights."
Peter Singer as one of his major inspirations. And now that our own Supreme Court has acknowledged corporations -- and even, as the doc points out, business partnerships -- as "people," why not chimps? Well, first off, Mr. Silly, because the rich and the corporate won't get richer and more powerful by giving personhood to chimps, as they did via the personhood-to-corporations route.
First Run Features in association with HBO Documentary Films, Unlocking the Cage, opens this Wednesday, May 25, at New York City's Film Forum, and will then expand nationally in June. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.