The director of a 15-year-old animal rights documentary at the center of a baffling hostage situation in Ukraine has condemned the incident, saying, “We do not cause terror to awaken people to terror.”
Director Shaun Monson’s comments came after an armed man in Ukraine, identified as 44-year-old Maksim Krivosh, held 13 people hostage on Tuesday, demanding that the country’s president publicly endorse the Joaquin Phoenix-narrated “Earthlings,” among a number of demands issued ahead of a 12-hour standoff with police.
President Volodymyr Zelensky followed the terrorist’s request, posting a short video on Facebook that encouraged, “Everybody watch the 2005 documentary ‘Earthlings.'” He later deleted the post.
“‘Earthlings’ does not endorse or condone acts of terror, as its message is one of compassion for all beings. The film’s content is the ongoing global slaughter of billions of defenseless animals, which is not only detrimental to human health but a primary cause of climate change,” said Monson in a statement shared with Variety.
“However, we do not cause terror to awaken people to terror. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this ordeal, to their families, as well as the authorities who ensured that no lives were lost. May we move forward with non-violence toward all.”
“Earthlings” examines the use of animals in agricultural and scientific industries and includes hidden camera footage of animals suffering. It also compares speciesism to racism and sexism among humans. Phoenix, who has yet to comment on the incident, is a passionate animal rights activist, and recently starred in a short film for environmental movement Extinction Rebellion, produced by Monson.
After Zelensky posted the message about “Earthlings” — which Krivosh reportedly screened to hostages on the bus — all hostages were released and Krivosh surrendered to police. No one was harmed.
Krivosh had seized a bus and barricaded himself in the city of Lutsk on Tuesday morning. He posted his manifesto and demands on Twitter earlier in the day. In addition to his demand about “Earthlings,” he asked that government officials and members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church post messages saying that they are terrorists.
Zelensky issued a statement after the hostages were freed and Krivosh was arrested, saying “We were not fighting for ratings. We were fighting for lives.”