Emmy award winning director and producer Allison Argo’s documentary, THE LAST PIG, will screen as the closing night film at the Lower East Side Film Festival on Monday night.
The film, shot by Joseph Brunette, an award-winning cinematographer whose work has appeared on National Geographic, CNN, PBS, NOVA, Nature, Discovery and History, follows pig farmer Bob Comis over the course of a year, as he begins to examine his internal conflicts and eventually decides to stop sending his pigs to the slaughter house.
Argo knew she had to tell this story after reading some essays written by Comis, who had been quite open about his ethical concerns around animal farming.
“It’s an intimate tale told by the farmer,” Argo said in a phone interview, “there aren’t any talking heads or anything, so audiences can really absorb it and make it their own.” She added, “Bob is a very private person, not exactly outgoing, which is what makes it so wonderful that he was willing to share his story with the world.”
Shot over a period of nine months, once a week, they captured the changing seasons on the farm and allowed Comis’ transition to happen naturally.
“It was a very intimate experience,” she said, “because it was just myself, Joe (the cinematographer) and Bob. That was it, everyday…out on the farm, and so I think that intimacy is reflected in the film.”
Argo is careful to explain, “the film does not tell anybody what they should eat, or think, or do – it just allows you to experience the farmers’s life and his transition, and as a result of that people are inspired to think about it deeply…but it doesn’t ask you to become vegan, or anything.”
“It’s really a chance to experience what it’s like to be a farmer in upstate New York,” she added.
And if the idea of filming at a pig slaughterhouse makes you a little squeamish, don’t worry –
“We made the conscious choice not to be very graphic at the slaughterhouse — so you won’t see a pig being killed,” she said.
The story has been well received on the festival circuit and has been translated into 18 different languages, with screenings in countries all over the world.
Argo has been making films about endangered species and animals in captivity for close to 30 years. She said she plans to do more conservation stories in the future. “I’d like to explore slaughterhouses – and the impact they have on both the humans who work there and of course the nonhumans,” she said, “I’m also feeling like chickens need some attention and awareness-building.”
THE LAST PIG screens at Cinema Village East (181-189 2nd Ave.) on Monday, June 10, 2019 at 8:00pm. An open beer and wine bar starts at 7:30pm. The filmmakers will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening. Find more info and tickets here.