Joaquin Phoenix and Rosario Dawson Star in Gripping Short Film About Climate Change

PSA from Extinction Rebellion and Amazon Watch

Just days before the Academy Awards, where he is a Best Actor front-runner for his work in Joker, Joaquin Phoenix is appearing in a new PSA around another of his passions—battling climate change. 

Phoenix stars in the two-minute "Guardians of Life" film alongside a number of other Hollywood stars, including Rosario Dawson, Matthew Modine, Q'orianka Kilcher, Oona Chaplin, Adria Arjona, and Albert Hammond Jr. of the Strokes.

It's set in an emergency room at a hospital, with doctors struggling to keep a patient alive. It won't come as too much of a surprise that the situation is a metaphor... 

Extinction Rebellion | Guardians of Life

The short film, urging action on the climate and ecological emergency, was directed by Shaun Monson and made in partnership with environmental groups Extinction Rebellion and Amazon Watch.

Phoenix, 45, has a history of activist work. He was recently arrested at a protest organized by Jane Fonda in Washington D.C., where he spoke about the link between animal agriculture and climate change.

"It's really a call to action," he said of the "Guardians of Life" film. "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." 

Here's what others involved in the project had to say: 

"Instead of focusing on deforestation, ice melting and species extinction, we use a story as a metaphor. 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." —Director Shaun Monson

"An indigenous woman saving the Amazon is not a metaphor: It is a daily reality as the rainforest is razed and indigenous lands are invaded for profit. The Amazon rainforest is the heart of our world, and indigenous forest guardians are central to its well-being and to our collective future." —Leila Salazar-López, Amazon Watch

"This film is very important for us at this moment. It demonstrates the artists' engagement in Amazon protection by showing the key role indigenous peoples play in defending the forests, the planet, and life itself." —Sônia Guajajara, executive coordinator of the Articulation of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples (APIB)

"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." —Actor Matthew Modine

"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." —Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion

"As an indigenous actress, I feel a strong responsibility to use my public platform to help amplify the voices who are seldom heard including all the indigenous defenders around the world who are the protectors of our Mother Earth, the Amazon Rainforest, and all the biodiversity and animals." —Q'orianka Kilcher, the film's female lead

"This film features fires in the Amazon and Australia, but we must not forget the other devastating fires from Angola and the Congo to Siberia and California." —Jonathan Mintram, executive producer

The film is the first of a planned 12-part series from Extinction Rebellion, in collaboration with Mobilize Earth. The next film will deal with the topic of climate change denial.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and the founding editor of Muse by Clio.

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