A cinema of sentience: the simian gaze in Godfrey Reggio’s Visitors

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


This article analyzes the moving portraits and the gazes of a female lowland gorilla named Triska in the film Visitors (Godfrey Reggio, 2013). By examining the formal qualities of her filmic portrayal and the biological and emotional affects portraits and gazes potentially have on the human viewer, I propose that Triska’s gazes create a ‘cinema of sentience’ that not only represent Triska as a sentient being, but affect an awareness of her sentience and subjectivity. I argue that Reggio’s filmic portraits of Triska do not position the viewer as superior to her – our gazes do not conquer or consumer her, and they do not sentimentalize her – rather, her gazes serve to equalize her for the viewer at the level of representation as well as affect, by encouraging the audience to experience a sense of affective empathy for the gorilla and her subjectivity, and to feel the sentience of the non-human Other. In the filmic encounters with Triska, humans become aware of both their humanity and their animality, producing affective moments where biology and philosophy collide – an affective encounter that questions our cognitive philosophical assumptions about what it means to be human and what it means to be animal and simian.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-36
JournalMoving Image Review & Art Journal (MIRAJ)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • affect
  • cinema of sentience
  • film phenomenology
  • gaze
  • non-human
  • portraits
  • subjectivity


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