Cow is a feature length documentary that premiered at the Cannes film festival in 2021. It depicts the everyday life and story of Luma, a dairy cow in England. At the festival, there was not a dry pair of eyes as Luma's life passed in front of the audience on the silver screen. Much like the film Gunda, one based on the life of a pig, the movie has no narrative nor pushes an agenda, it simply depicts reality, slowly and methodically.
"A lot of my friends were crying at that screening. The next night, we had another screening, and it was the same. I think lots of people don’t always know why it’s affected them in that way." said Academy Award-winning filmmaker and director Andrea Arnold. He followed with "I’ve had plenty of people say to me afterwards they had no clue that’s how milk came about. Obviously they knew milk came from cows, but they didn’t realize that calves were taken to produce milk."
As Luma screams in pangs of suffering when her two newborn are torn from her side, we scream in tandem with her somewhere deep inside us. As we watch Luma physically deteriorate from being driven from forced pregnancy to forced pregnancy we feel an empty anguish building up within us. Then as the highlight of Lunas life approaches, when finally she is let out into the sunlight to graze freely, the knot in our stomachs becomes insufferable.
Then the 94 minute documentary ends, the lights come up and we see all is well with the world around us. People stand up, wipe a tear or two off their cheeks and begin making small talk with each other. The visons of Luna and her cruel life begin to fade into the background as we contemplate going for some cappuccino and desert.
In the hierarchy of life, where neither kindness nor morality are critical or necessary, our discomfort at who and what we are ends at the cinema's exit. Luna can be viewed on the streaming service MUBI beginning mid February.