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Marisa Miller Wolfson,
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T. Colin Campbell,
THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE illuminates the lives of individual animals living within and rescued from the machine of our modern world. Through the heart and photographic lens of animal rights photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur, audiences become intimately familiar with a cast of non-human animals. From undercover investigations to joyful rescue missions, in North America and in Europe, each photograph and story is a window into global animal industries: Food, Fashion, Entertainment and Research. THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE charts McArthur's efforts to bring wider attention to a topic that most of humankind strives hard to avoid. Written by
Ghosts is a film that offers the hope of attracting those who care and those who don't, a documentary that will embolden the converted while likely influencing more to join the choir (or at least check out the song book). It is a documentary that refuses to preach, instead opting for a beautifully constructed homage to the rest of our kingdom, spilling over with a unique and thoughtful cordiality that is born out of unmitigable love, respect and understanding.
The documentary is a refreshing departure from its more rational-minded predecessors that throw facts and data at us while barraging audiences with violent sounds and images of slaughter and torture. Ghosts instead confronts with the unforgettable grace of animals many of us so easily shut out from our daily thoughts, as industrial capitalism distantly spins its cogs of exploitation on farms, in labs and factories and abattoirs.
These are the ghosts the winged, the four-legged and the otherwise objectified and disgraced cousins gasping for life below us on the commodity/food chain.
Marshall doesn't throw the sixties wrench into the cogs of the machine, screaming from a mantle of righteousness that what we are doing is morally, ethically, ecologically wrong. Instead, she introduces proximal empathy into the abysmal space between consumers and capital with a powerful effect that hits both the mind and heart with an enduring resonance.
Through the various actions and efforts of the very talented and committed photographer Jo-Anne McArthur the film quietly sneaks into the obscured and horrific spaces of mink farms and other places where animals have had their essence as sentient beings barbarically debased into commodity form, lingering just long enough to occlude forgetting.
Both the photographs and cinematography in the film are stunning, and viewing on a small screen should be avoided Ghosts is a visual delight, despite the sometimes difficult scenes that unfold. A confident direction shines through in this skilfully shot and tightly edited doc that is also audibly adorned with an awesome score and soundscape. The beauty of the film's artifice somehow does not aestheticize suffering, nor create Hallmark images of the animals documented instead the richness of sound and images helps us through tough spaces, punctuating moments we might otherwise wish to shut out or alternately, not have registered as worthy of contemplation.
Yet we do not spend too much time in the most violent of animal oppression spaces, and by focusing on the beauty and individuality of the many animals (who have names and personalities) that McArthur documents, including and crucially the relationships between committed humans and the broken and discarded, Ghosts brings us in close and personal and squeezes tight.
It's a warm and inviting embrace that the film offers, one that builds empathy for these creatures over its 90 minutes, and it doesn't relinquish after the closing credits.
I didn't feel yelled at or schooled, but I do feel implicated and educated. To the benefit of Marshall and others who worked on this film (and by extension, to McArthur) those feelings of implication and elucidation are wrapped in beauty, love and understanding.
If I sound warm and fuzzy it's because this film's compassion and sensitivity are comforting sensations that just might be the right mixture needed to deliver a documentary on animal rights that transcends the earlier discussed divide and invites everyone in without compromising its politics, while not shutting out others, in spite of its politics.
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