Intelligent, precious, sacred, fascinating. These are not words often used to describe pigs. But for Bob Comis, a pig farmer in Upstate New York and the lead character of the new documentary The Last Pig, those adjectives are perfect.
If that’s true, he asks in the film, why am I leading them to slaughter? Massachusetts native Allison Argo, producer/director/writer of the film, captures Comis’ personal upheaval as he realizes after years of raising pigs that he can no longer bear the ultimate act of betrayal. The film airs on GBH 2 at 9pm on July 15.
The winner of dozens of awards around the world, The Last Pig brings viewers into the realities and drama of Comis’ last year on the pig farm. With her portfolio of National Geographic and PBS Nature films, Argo has dedicated her career to capturing the lives of animals and the interconnections between all living things.
“If we look around us and ask which animals suffer the most in our society, it has to be the ones that are trapped and used in farming — especially factory farming,” says Argo. “For years I grappled with how I could bring this story to public attention without it being too graphic and disturbing.”
When she discovered Comis’ writings about his ethical crisis, she knew he would be the perfect narrator. “I was so moved by his openness and willingness to put his deepest feelings out there for the world to see,” she says. She visited him at his farm, and after a few hours of conversation, he agreed to be filmed.
“He knew my work, which helped, but I was amazed that he would trust the most intimate details with us.” The connection was instant, said Comis.
“When we sat down, it was like love at first word,” he said. “It was like the heartbeat of the film could already be heard.”
Over nine months, Argo and cinematographer Joseph Brunette filmed at the farm for a week each month. “We wanted this film to be extremely immersive and experiential so that viewers would feel like they were actually on the farm with the pigs and identify with the farmer’s emotional journey,” says Argo. She also opted to use more of Comis’ voice than showing his on-camera interviews.
“I wanted the farmer’s voice to speak directly to the audience, as if his subconscious is a voice in your ear,” she says.
Argo said she hopes the film moves people to take stock of their lives and values. “I hope it inspires people to dig around and ask, ‘Am I living my life aligned with my values?’ ‘Do I need to make some adjustments?’”
She grew up in Orleans on Cape Cod, where her parents ran a summer theater. “I think that’s why I got into film. As a child watching those plays, I was just absorbing what storytelling is, with heroes and villains navigating life’s struggles,” Argo says.
“Bob is a very, very quiet man, a great listener and a very deep thinker,” she says. “He opens his mind and heart to us.”
The Last Pig airs on GBH 2 at 9pm on July 15.