Animals are documentary subjects, too. Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker move from their popular, sugar-frosted documentary, “Kings of Pastry” (2009) to a much stickier topic: legal rights for a range of other fauna. Featured is animal-rights lawyer Steven Wise, who after thirty years exploring other avenues with his Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), files lawsuits for animals to attain personhood. He begins with chimpanzees, and in the five years of the story, hopes to move on to other animals with demonstrated cognitive affect, including whales, dolphins and elephants. Hegedus and Pennebaker watch studiously, as one would expect from their extended body of work, crisply capturing the legalistic folderol of the battle in modest courtroom drama, where the arguments never convince, but are captivating to observe. With Wise, Natalie Prosin, Liddy Stein, Mary Lee Jensvold, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Justice Barbara Jaffe. 91m. (Ray Pride)
“Unlocking the Cage” plays June 10-16 at Siskel. The trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.