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Unlocking the Cage


Renowned filmmakers D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus follow determined animal rights activist Steven Wise into the courtroom for an unprecedented battle that seeks to utilize the writ of habeas corpus to expand legal “personhood” to include certain animals. Wise’s unusual plaintiffs—chimpanzees Tommy and Kiko, once famed showbiz stars—are now living in filth, struggling to survive. Wise and his impassioned legal team take us into the field, revealing gripping evidence of such abuse and plunging us into the intricacies of their case as they probe preconceived notions of what it means to be a non-human animal.

Propelled by one man’s life mission of 30 years, the filmmakers mine this obsession and dedication to a cause that many experts feel is ripe for skepticism. Heartwarming and challenging, this powerfully crafted story does a remarkable job breaking down the science, legalities, and psychology behind a battle that, against all odds, has the potential to transform our legal system and effectively break down barriers between humans and animals.

YEAR 2015

SECTION Doc Premieres


RUN TIME 91 min

COMPANY Pennebaker Hegedus Films

WEBSITE phfilms.com

EMAIL frazer@phfilms.com

PHONE (212) 496-9195


Executive Producer
Associate Producer

Artist Bio

Chris Hegedus

Chris Hegedus has been directing, shooting, and editing films for four decades. In 2002 she was awarded the prestigious DGA Award for Startup.com. Along with D A Pennebaker, she directed the 1992 Academy Award–nominated film The War Room. Her other films include two-time Emmy Award–winning film Elaine Stritch at Libery, The Energy War, Town Bloody Hall, Moon Over Broadway, Depeche Mode 101, and Kings of Pastry.

D A Pennebaker

D A Pennebaker is regarded as one of the pioneers of cinéma vérité filmmaking. In 1959 he joined Drew Associated, where he produced the revolutionary Living Camera series and develop one of the first fully portably 16mm synchronized camera/soundrigs. His classics, Don't Look Back and Monterey Pop, defined the rock-film genre. Pennebaker is the recipient of an Academy Honorary Award.