Joaquin Phoenix is stars in a new film for climate protest group Extinction Rebellion made in collaboration with environmental pressure group Amazon Watch.
In the online film, titled "Guardians of Life," Phoenix plays a surgeon in the ER trying to save a patient precipitously on the edge of death. He'd joined by a team of other doctors and nurses played by actors including Rosario Dawson, Matthew Modine and Oona Chaplin.
It's a scenario typical of medical dramas, with the team putting in their all only to see the patient flatline in the end. One of the medics then goes in for a last ditch attempt and we hear the beeping of the monitor start up again—suggesting that there might be life left. Ultimately, it's revealed that the patient is actually the Earth, identifiable through its burned out "organs"—the Amazon and Australia. And when that last heroic doctor removes her mask, we see she's an indigenous woman, played by actor Q’orianka Kilcher.
The film's script was created by Extinction Rebellion last October in Los Angeles. The ad arrives just in time for the Oscars, in which Phoenix is a high-profile nominee for Best Actor for "Joker." The actor has a history of activism, including calling out racism in the entertainment industry while making his BAFTA acceptance speech last weekend. He was recently arrested at a protest organized by the actress Jane Fonda in Washington DC, where he spoke about the link between climate change and animal agriculture.
“It’s really a call to action," Phoenix said about the ad in a statement. "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."
The director, Shaun Monson, added that he felt "compelled' to make the film as previous documentary style PSAs had failed to move audiences to take action. “Instead of focusing on deforestation, ice melting and species extinction, we use a story as a metaphor," he said. "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."
Airing online, with the aim of driving traffic to a fundraising website, it's the first in a series of 12 planned films by Extinction Rebellion, which has been behind a series of wide-scale protests in London last year, as well as at events including Cannes Lions, where activists were arrested. Future films will also feature Hollywood stars, the organization confirmed.