Hot Docs Review: ‘Res Creata – Humans and Other Animals’

Alessandro Cattaneo retraces the blueprint of our contract with the animal kingdom

3 mins read

Res Creata – Humans and Other Animals
(Italy, 80 min.)
Dir. Alessandro Cattaneo
Program: The Changing Face of Europe

Absolutely unique, Res Creata is a scientific and philosophical marvel asking us to ponder the bigger picture. By meandering from religious processions to pagan rituals, and from visiting acrobatic horsemen in Sardinia to learning whale speak with a zoo-musicologist, Italian director Alessandro Cattaneo retraces the blueprint of our contract with the animal kingdom.

A discussion about hierarchy and anthropocentrism with philosopher Felici Cimatti is illustrated with images of stuffed animals in a natural history museum. In a mountainous landscape, we meet the shepherd Piero Tomei, surrounded by his sheep. After exploring living with and tending a herd, the film jumps to a choir singing at a church altar. The dome above them is decorated with lambs, adding Christian symbolism to the tenderness evoked by the shepherd.

The poetic editing of Pietro Malegori adds coherence and consistence to Cattaneo’s elegant cinematography. Every image seems to connect to the previous one. At times, the association is subtle. At others, not so much. While Vittorio de Vecchi’s achingly beautiful soundtrack deserves high praise, its strong presence sometimes robs the viewer of the freedom to linger. On the other hand, considering the existential magnitude of the film’s eco-ethological subject, a little pathos might not entirely be misguided.

While Cattaneo doesn’t burden the film by suggesting new resolutions or offering solutions, Res Creata does have the outlines of an essay film. From Democritus to Derrida, the films skims and sways around the key notions of biocentrism and anti-speciesism. Its political, poetical or scientific dimensions, depending on which participant is talking, each feed into Cattaneo’s exploration of a restored coexistence between humans and other animals. He puts his finger on the friction that emerges from our mix up of sacrifice and slaughter. As humans learned to objectify and quantify, they disconnected themselves from the animal realm. But, as the film tries to demonstrate, the ties aren’t entirely severed. When Giovanni Lindo Ferretti, a figure from the Italian ’80s punk scene and one of the film’s participants, tries to express the lack of animals, forest and meadows he felt in his life, he says “it’s like living in someone else’s house”. Perhaps the time has come for us, lost sheep and humans alike, to return home.

Res Creata – Humans and Other Animals screens at Hot Docs’ online festival beginning May 28.

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival.

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