[Slamdance 2023] PUNK ROCK VEGAN MOVIE -- Moby's Preachy but Entertaining Argument for Animal Rights
Review by Sean Boelman
Love him or hate him, there’s one thing that you have to admire about the electronic musician Moby: his passion and commitment to what he believes in. Although it is unlikely that it will convert any new members to the cause, Moby’s directorial debut Punk Rock Vegan Movie is a mostly entertaining and informative documentary.
In the film, Moby explores the relationship between punk rock and vegan activism, and how some of the early punk rock musicians were pioneers in fighting for animal rights. At times, the film does feel like a PSA more than an actual documentary, but the number of recognizable faces involved keeps things entertaining.
Everyone knows that Moby is one of the music industry’s most outspoken animal rights activists, so it comes as no surprise that he made a documentary about the history of veganism in the music industry. However, his choice to insert himself so strongly into the narrative rather than letting his interview subjects speak for themselves is somewhat frustrating.
Of course, anyone who knows Moby as a musician would expect the film to be pretty quirky and relentlessly independent, for better or worse. A clumsy framing device features skits like Moby explaining the concept of veganism and the history of punk rock to his dog or Moby playing the devil in a newscast interview. While these bits are undeniably well-intentioned, they come off as cringe-worthy rather than effective.
The film also suffers from all-around less-than-stellar technical aspects. It’s surprising that, with his connections, Moby didn't attempt to get bigger financing for this project. Although the message is good, the poor, low-budget looking cinematography doesn’t lend the message the feeling of legitimacy it deserves.
Moby does build some significant credibility by featuring interviews with plenty of prominent names in the punk rock scene, including Dave Navarro, Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, and more. It’s likely a combination of personal favors and their passion for the project that allowed Moby to convince some of these high-profile musicians to lend their profile to the documentary, but it does make the film a more exciting watch for music aficionados.
The soundtrack is made up of a combination of punk music and Moby’s own work. What is surprising is how much the film does actually go into the music side of this story, exploring how themes of activism were heavily present in some of the most iconic punk rock songs during the genre’s golden age.
Punk Rock Vegan Movie doesn’t may not be the animal rights anthem that Moby hopes it will be, but it’s still entertaining nonetheless. In true Moby and punk rock fashion, the documentary will be released for viewers for free streaming later this month, so hopefully that will allow him to get his message out there.
Punk Rock Vegan Movie is playing as part of the 2023 Slamdance Film Festival, which runs in-person in Park City, UT from January 20-26 and online from January 23-29.