Friday, October 4, 2013

The Ghosts in Our Machine: Film Review

Recently, I went to see a screening of a new documentary film, The Ghosts in Our Machine. It's a breathtaking film about a photographer named Jo-Anne McArthur, who goes on a mission to document the exploitation of animals for human use in modern society. The "ghosts" referred to in the title are the animals who we don't see, and they work in "our machine", which is pretty much our industrial system of production and research.

The movie poster, from their online store, at (not the same as their main website)
This was a fantastic movie. It truly re-invigorated my passion for animal rights, reminding me why I care about animal rights issues and veganism in the first place. The movie "takes" the viewers with Jo-Anne and friends on an undercover photoshoot of a fur farm. It also shows Jo-Anne's photographs from other excursions-- photographs of imprisoned monkeys, dogs, cows, and many more animals. All of this is shown from the perspective of Jo-Anne, a passionate animal rights activist with immense concern and empathy for animals.
One of the most heart-rendering scenes was the one with the pigs. There was a truck-load of pigs being shipped away to be slaughtered, and animal rights activists gathered around and took pictures of the animals in the truck when it slowed down on its route. The frightened piglets looked so emotional and intelligent in very human ways... and yet you knew that they were going to be killed. I felt somewhat reassured by the animal rights activists standing by the road holding signs urging drivers to honk their horns to show compassion for the pigs. They were also wearing Go Vegan T-shirts. Many cars did honk their horns.
Some people who have seen animal rights films or photographs before might be hesitant to see another movie on animal rights. Wait a minute... you might be thinking, Is this going to be full of gory, disturbing footage of dead, dying, and horribly abused animals? Well, friends, don't worry, because you can rest assured! Although this movie shows you some heartbreaking photographs and film footage-- which is a good thing, since that's the only way you can really come to understand the urgency of animal rights issues-- the filmmaker (Liz Marshall) tactfully switches the view from suffering animals to happy animals whenever it starts to get to be too much to handle. This is done in an effective, relevant manner, since Jo-Anne regularly visits Farm Sanctuary to re-charge after emotionally-draining expeditions. This also allows the viewer to ponder what they have just seen and breathe a breath of fresh air while watching beautiful sheep frolick through the fields!
Also, instead of outright giving instructions on how to go vegan at the end of the film (which is something that most animal rights films would do), "The Ghosts in Our Machine" leaves it to the viewers to come to their own conclusions. Although references to veganism are made in the film (the Go Vegan shirts, the food that Jo-Anne ate at meals, and a sign at Farm Sanctuary asking people not to consume animal products while visiting), the movie was not at all preachy. Even so, it was certainly moving enough to convince people to go vegan.
This is the movie that the world needs to see. "The Ghosts in Our Machine" has the capacity to change the world by first changing the minds and hearts of the world's people. It is professional enough to be taken seriously, gentle enough to enter the mainstream, and heartbreaking enough to truly inspire change.
Regardless of who you are (although you shouldn't show this movie to very young children, as it can be disturbing) or how familiar you are with animal rights, this movie is for you! I repeat, the world needs to see this movie!
If you'd like to learn more, order the film, find out when the next screenings are coming up, or if you'd like to order copies for your local library (which would be a lovely thing to do, don't you agree?), please go to their website at Their website is full of information and food for thought in itself. You can even request permission to hold a community screening of the movie for 2014. To go immediately to their online store, you can click here:
For the animals!

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