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#HotDocs23 Review: Rowdy Girl

April 29, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2023 Hot Docs Film Festival runs from April 27th to May 7th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

At Rowdy Girl Sanctuary deep in the heart of Texas, reformed cattle rancher turned staunch vegan Renee King-Sonnen has created a safe haven for farm animals to save them from ending up on people’s plates. The change happened after she convinced her rancher husband Tommy to stop selling their cows for meat, and convert their beef farm into a sanctuary.

In the documentary Rowdy Girl, director Jason Goldman captures the daily operations of this farm sanctuary, crafting a fly-on-the-wall film that allows us to learn more about Renee through her candid conversations as she tries to help other ranchers convert to cruelty-free practices. The camera follows the boisterous and somewhat eccentric Renee as she sings to the cows in the field (who have all been given names), and tells stories about her recovery from both addiction and eating animals.

Renee admits to a rough patch in her marriage when she considered divorcing her husband and used to call him a murderer, before convincing him to go vegan with her. The idea is that if they could have a change of heart and convert their cattle ranch into a sanctuary, than others can as well. This led to the formation of the Rancher Advocacy Program, with the film following them as they help convert a chicken farm into a facility to grow mushrooms.

In one scene, Renee talks to a former marine who is considering giving up eating meat, telling him what a powerful statement he could make if someone like him were to go vegan. At 72 minutes, Rowdy Girl offers a brief but enjoyable and informative portrait of how animal agriculture facilities can evolve into being both more sustainable and humane.

Screenings: Saturday, April 29th, 8:15 PM at Isabel Bader Theatre; Wednesday, May 3rd, 9:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1. Tickets can be purchased here, and the film will also be streaming online across Canada from May 5th to 9th.

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