USA – 2015 – 92 MIN – COLOUR - DOCUMENTARY - IN ENGLISH
A FILM BY CHRIS HEGEDUS AND D A PENNEBAKER
Unlocking the Cage follows animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans. After 30 years of struggling with ineffective animal welfare laws, Steve and his lebgal team, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), are making history by filling the first lawsuits that seek to transform an animal from a "thing" with no rights to a "person" with legal protections.
Supported by affidavits from primatologists around the world, Steve maintains that, based on scientific evidence, cognitively complex animals such as chimpanzees, whales, dolphins and elephants have the capacity for limited personhood rights (such as bodily liberty) that would protect them from physical abuse. Using writs of habeas corpus (historically used to free humans from unlawful imprisonment), Wise argues on behalf of four captive chimpanzees in New York State.
Unlocking the Cage captures a monumental shift in our culture, as the public and judicial system show increasing receptiveness to Steve's impassioned arguments. It is an intimate look at a lawsuit that could forever transform out legal system, and one man's lifelong quest to protect "nonhuman" animals.
Globe and Mail: "A compelling and noble tale"NOW: "A convincing case for non-human rights"
NOW Magazine: "In its subtle way, Unlocking The Cage is an advocacy documentary reflecting the filmmakers’ own awakening to the personhood issue."
Globe and Mail: "A noble, and at times nakedly bold, plea for animal compassion"
National Post: "Recent films like The Cove and Blackfish have provoked new and much-needed conversations around nonhuman animals. Unlocking the Cage fits very well into this trend."
Toronto Film Scene: "Unlocking the Cage showcases a profound message of hope, demonstrating the beautiful leaps and bounds we’ve made as a society around animal rights."
Sean Kelly on Movies: Interview: D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus on Unlocking the Cage
National Post: "If (like this critic) you’re of the belief that other apes, cetaceans and elephants are capable of a degree of understanding that deserves an added layer of legal protection, this will be a heartening story"Interview, National Post
The Gate: "Unlocking the Cage is heartbreaking without being overbearing."