On Friday, the spring blockbuster Noah premiered in theatres across Canada. I'm not particularly religious, so rarely (OK, never) does a biblical film catch my attention, even with Easter approaching. But this movie, starring Russell Crowe and Emma Watson and based on the story of Noah's ark, intrigued me for entirely different reasons. Or at least the director did. Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, the man behind Black Swan, decided that, instead of using real-life animals during filming, the flick would be best shot using computer-generated imagery (CGI). The cruelty-free technology is easier, faster and more affordable when it comes to animals in film, says PETA's Animals in Film and Television. The organization says that animals used for filming typically spend their deprived lives in small cages. This isolation often incites physchological stress for social animals like primates, elephants and wolves. Meanwhile, the stress of performing can be confusing and torturous for them. "It would be very questionable to take sentient creatures and stick them on a set where they don't know what's going on," says Aronofsky, who notes that it wouldn't make sense to make a film about saving animals and to put them in danger at the same time. Why is his decision to put compassion before creativity so important? Well, the past few years have been a deluge (pun intended) of controversy surrounding animal rights in Hollywood.
[HTML1]In 2012, HBO suspended, then cancelled its horseracing drama Luck amid animal safety concerns after three horses died during production. Perhaps more closely related, Ang Lee's Oscar-winning Life of Pi was filmed with both CGI and a real-life Bengal tiger, King (a.k.a. Richard Parker), who was almost killed during filming. That disturbing news broke when The Hollywood Reporter obtained an internal email sent by Gina Johnson, a monitor with the American Human Association (AHA), a Washington, DC-based nonprofit: "Last week we almost fucking killed King in the water tank," she wrote to a colleague. Meanwhile, 27 animals died from dehydration, exhaustion and drowning during the filming of the 2012 blockbuster The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Other animal fatalities occurred during the filming of Eight Below, Failure to Launch, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Marmaduke, Our Idiot Brother—the list goes on. Trainers who supply animals to the entertainment industry are often cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violating the Animal Welfare Act, says PETA. But regulation is nevertheless minimal, and cruelty still occurs on set. Despite offering a "No animals were harmed" seal of approval to films, according to PETA, the AHA does not monitor the living conditions of animals in the entertainment industry. Watch the Noah trailer here:
[HTML2](Photo courtesy New Regency)