Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘Rowdy Girl’

Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘Rowdy Girl’

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then filmmaker Jason Goldman certainly looks to acquaint you with the spirit of each and every animal encountered in his documentary Rowdy Girl.  Close-ups of the eyes of the resident cows, horses, goats and other animals that reside at the Rowdy Girl Sanctuary are numerous and meant to drive home the film’s main animal rights message.

As we watch the film’s subject, Renee King-Sonnen apply a bandage to a turkey’s foot, it’s clear the bond she has with the bird, Sealy, and every animal that calls the sanctuary home.  While Renee and her husband tend to the animals in their care, she explains how the couple turned their cattle ranch, which routinely had to send cows off to slaughter, into a safe haven.

Renee is passionate about veganism and eliminating animal cruelty.  “Every time you put your fork in something you’re hiring a hit man,” she says.  Meat is murder in Renee’s eyes and while her commitment to the cause is noble, these comments can come off a bit bombastic, at times making Rowdy Girl feel like a propaganda film (considering musician, PETA affiliate, and animal rights activist Moby is a producer this is not surprising). Renee’s husband appears the more empathetic, fair character here.

Yet, the couple’s ideas about climate change and their support for farms wishing to transition to plant based agriculture is certainly interesting and virtuous.  Goldman tries to balance things by showing a cattle rancher in conversation with Renee.  Both are steadfast in their convictions but respectful of one another’s views.  And perhaps that idea is the best one to come out of Rowdy Girl in these divisive times – that two sides of an issue can actually have a conversation and find common ground.

  • Release Date: 4/29/2023
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Hillary is a Toronto based writer, though her heart often lives in her former home of London, England. She has loved movies for as long as she can remember, though it was seeing Jurassic Park as a kid that really made it a passion. She has been writing about film since 2010 logging plenty of reviews and interviews since then, especially around festival season. She has previously covered the London Film Festival, TIFF (where she can often be found frantically running between venues) and most recently Sundance (from her couch). She is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics. When she’s not watching films or writing about them, she can be found at her day job as a veterinarian. Critic and vet is an odd combination, but it sure is a great conversation starter at an interview or festival!
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