A new feature-length vegan documentary, When Pigs Escape, showcases the story of a family of pigs rescued from a UK meat farm.
The “Ollerton 11,” as they became known, was made up of Matilda and her 10 piglets. They attracted national media attention in June 2021 after a heavily pregnant Matilda escaped from a Nottinghamshire farm and gave birth in the woods.
Capturing the hearts of the UK public, Matilda’s freedom was negotiated by nearby rescue teams at Surge Sanctuary and Brinsley Animal Rescue. She is now living out her days in peace with her children at the former.
When Pigs Escape comes from director Jusep Moreno. It offers an honest look at the lives of Matilda and her piglets, while gently asking viewers to reconsider their relationships with and treatment of animals.
Often shot from their eye-level, it attempts to move past simple anthropomorphism of the animals (as seen in Hollywood films such as Babe) to offer real insight into their interactions. It also demonstrates how sociable, intelligent, and maternal pigs are.
Meeting Matilda the pig
When Matilda’s story broke, Moreno was volunteering at Brinsley Animal Rescue. He had been planning to film a documentary about a year in the life of an animal rescue center. However, Matilda changed everything.
Moreno says that he respected Matilda’s boundaries by never trying to film covertly. He also stayed alert for signs that she didn’t want him to be too close, though none came.
The making of a vegan filmmaker
Originally from Catalonia in Spain, Moreno has been vegan for around six years. He transitioned away from meat-eating after becoming disillusioned with Spanish traditions, including bull running.
With a background in photography, the leap to filmmaking wasn’t too great, but the motivation to do so was. Moreno recalls being frustrated that his animal photography was only ever judged superficially, with his subjects being deemed cute. While he agreed, he wanted to tell their stories and draw attention to environmental concerns that threatened them. Hence the move to film.
Where to watch When Pigs Escape
When Pigs Escape was screened at 16 selected cinemas on November 19. The film has now won four awards, from the Impact DOCS Awards, IndieFEST Film Awards, S.O.F.A Film Festival, and A Show For A Change.