New documentary The Animal People will make its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival on Saturday, October 26. Executively produced by vegan actor and Joker star Joaquin Phoenix, the film is produced by CSI star Jorja Fox and directed by Cassandra Suchan (Rock The Bells) and Dennis Henry Hennelly (Bold Native). The Animal People follows a group of six activists from the United States arm of British animal-rights group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) who were surveilled by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and ultimately indicted as domestic terrorists for leading protests against Huntingdon Life Sciences, a major animal-testing company. The FBI used its surveillance of the activists as a model for targeting later movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. Prior to the activists’ indictments, the US Congress rewrote laws to bend to corporate pressure, potentially weakening the free-speech rights of all Americans. “This film is about much more than just this case,” Phoenix said. “It’s about fundamental questions concerning free speech, social change, and corporate power that have never been more urgently relevant in our world.” The Animal People features interviews with the six activists spanning more than a decade and aims to illustrate the result of activism being classified as terrorism when insitutions of power are involved.
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