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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.
The Ghosts in Our Machine is a brilliant look at the relationships that
humans have with the animals that we see, or deny the existence of,
every day. We see and get to know each of them through the lens of
Animal Rights photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, we feel her emotion as her
photographs tell a story few people know, and fewer want to hear. There
is a beautiful balance of sorrow and joy in the film, and a hope that
Jo-Anne's work with We Animals, and this film, will change the world
Anyone can watch this film and learn more about how they can become a part of the change. The films robust social media campaign provides support and resources on changes that anyone can make in their everyday life to help make the world a better place. For themselves, and for the Ghosts.
This beautifully told tale follows photographer Jo-Anne McArthur as she
takes photos of individual animals used for entertainment, fashion,
food, and research and seeks to bring her work to a wider audience.
It's the story of one woman following her calling and passion. She sees herself as a war photographer. She wants to save the world. Her work as a
McArthur's clear counterculture mission is animal liberation. The film follows her vision of animals as sentient beings who deserve to live their own lives for those lives' sake, not as as means to human ends. She documents animals' confinement and suffering.
It's an intriguing vision and watchable filled with gorgeous cinematography and many soulful eyes (sometimes filled with confusion and pain, but the film also shows images of animals at peace and pleasure).
This is director Liz Marshall's first animal rights film and she said after watching many other films in the genre she purposefully chose to steer away from more graphic images. It's often visually pleasing and even funny. Even so, it's overall effect is heart-wrenching.
Much of the film's power comes from its juxtaposition of images that contrast McArthur's conscious awareness of animal interests with the general disregard and commoditization of animals displayed in the dominant culture.
McArthur works to document and bring to light what industries take great pains to hide the abuse of animals behind their products. She seeks to stimulate people's natural affinity with and compassion for animals to change these cruel systems.
Therefore, the film has a keen awareness of the animal origin (and the lives injured and cruel systems behind) products commonly seen and displayed while walking down a city street.
It's a perspective worth considering and a film worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Ghosts" is a film that tries to do too much and yet accomplishes very
little. It is an overly simplistic take on a deeply complex issue. If
Director Liz Marshall and Jo Anne McArthur want the average viewer to
feel empathy for animals, they perhaps succeeded. But if their goal is
to inspire the viewer and convince them to stop consuming, using and/or
wearing these animals I am not sure this film was sufficiently
The intended audience of this film is clear: It is meant for a viewer who has spent minimal time contemplating animal suffering. Not surprisingly, the animal rights and ethical vegan community are rejoicing over the film's release. It is so rare for theaters to give mainstream attention to a film that delves into the human-animal relationship and shows something the viewer may be incredibly uncomfortable seeing or acknowledging. A film like "Ghosts" is different than movies such as "The Cove" or "Blackfish," as it is relatively easy for a viewer to detach themselves from the any sense of personal complicity. In the latter two films, if an audience member feels that atrocities are committee at the expense of marine mammals they do not have to point a finger at themselves since they are not hunting the animals. But when a film demonstrates to the viewers that they themselves are part of the problem and forces them to critique their own consumption and rethink cultural norms, the film will not as readily gain mainstream support or popularity.
Unfortunately, the intended audience may be different than the actual audience, as much of the movie's support and viewership will come from the animal rights movements... the ones who need little convincing.
That said, the viewer is kept waiting for the plot in this film. The brilliant cinematography enhanced the film and the emotional response to its content, but the plot climax never seemed to come. It is easy to emphasize and root for Ms. McArthur. In an early scene in the film in which Ms. McArthur documented conditions on a fur farm, I was left waiting for amazing footage of atrocities in an unseen world. The film however left me disappointed by proceeding to spend much of the next 45 advertising for Farm Sanctuary.
The film addressed the exploitation of purpose bred beagles in laboratory research. I was inspired by the adoption these wonderful beagles, but at the same time it was an incredibly wasted learning opportunity - what exactly were these dogs rescued from? The viewer saw them in cages but the film did not explain what was being inflicted upon them and why. We saw shots of notebooks and an explanation that the dogs were scared and could take months, if not years, to re-socialize. But what type of harm did they endure? what is a "teaching animal?" The credits at the end of the film contained a sentence about beagle testing for medical and dentistry purposes. There was not a single mention of the cosmetics, chemical and pharmaceutical industries that inflict horrific and needless tests on animals. The 2 second shot of a bottle of perfume and a make up counter were very likely lost on most viewers. Moreover, it was not explained to the viewer why medical testing is cruel, unnecessary and provides flawed results.
Virtually no point in the film was fully explained. Proponents of the film may respond to my criticism to pointing out that the film doesn't aim to educate with facts or discussion, but instead to show suffering, to show the faces of these creatures that human chooses to capture, torture and turn into commodities. This may be a valid artistic choice, but it left the movie feeling empty and pointless. Veganism, a lifestyle involving a conscious abstention from the products of animal suffering, was given minimal attention in a very short part of the film. The problems of the dairy industry were barely mentioned and eggs were not mentioned at all. The potential for confusion between the idyllic scenes of rescued at Farm Sanctuary and advertising for various humane products seems especially high. Or perhaps even if a viewer concludes that any method of killing an animal is ethically questionable, they may persist in their consumption of eggs and dairy by rationalizing "I will buy my eggs from chickens who have lots of space and are well care for in small traditional farms." It was not lost on me that Ms. McArthur continuously used the term "factory farm" over and over again, but never explicitly condemned the myth of "humane" farming except for in one line towards the very end of the movie.
Overall, advocates for animals should be pleased a film that might inspire viewers to go vegan is receiving mainstream attention. However, the film had way too many missed opportunities and no definitive plot. I could have saved my $15 and simply gone onto Farm Sanctuary's website (or visited the place myself) to see it be shameless promoted. That said, I would definitely share this film with my non vegan friends and family, but I would insist on viewing it with them so that I could fill in many of the unfortunate gaps in its presentation of the issues and address any of the likely confusions that may arise for those unfamiliar with its themes.
This stunning film is unlike any other of its subject matter you've
Other animal-rights films often simply shock or desensitize with graphic, tragic imagery. While Ghosts In Our Machine does not altogether avoid footage of the disturbing realities that animals used for food, clothing and entertainment face, the filmmaker does an amazing job with balance and juxtaposition. TGIOM, through following the work of photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, exposes cruelty humans put animals through, but you will also meet rescued animals and their human caretakers who would not trade their work for anything in the world.
The cinematography is astoundingly beautiful, and haunting, with a soundtrack to match. The truth that this film brings to the world is that non-human animals are just like us; they feel love, joy, curiosity, and happiness, have friendships, play games, love their family members, and deserve lives free from the abuse, captivity, fear, emotional suffering and physical pain necessitated by industries that use animals. And yet the film is still able to let you decide that for yourself.
This is a beautifully done documentary. If you love animals' it is not to be missed. The four -leggeds, the winged ones, the ones who swim. They are all here, as Humans are here, to live out their lives to the best of their ability. Did you pay attention? Even after suffering, never being shown compassion,no "normal" living space,no care past being kept alive, either long enough to get fattened up for the kill, or long enough to suffer pain and mutation......EVEN THEN the rescued ones,bear no hatred of humans. They deserve LIFE. Life as Creator meant for them. I feel like I may be preaching to the choir... How do you get this movie in the living rooms of Corporate America?
This film puts you at the heart of animal cruelty by humans and those that are fighting for them. It helps to establish a connection and understanding as to why so many people want to help the voiceless. You get to see in their eyes in such a profound and clear way. You feel for them and the pain they endure. I can't think of a more effective way to help people relate to those of us that have dedicated our lives to ending the exploitation of innocent animals. The film is not all sad and depressing though. You also get to see those that have benefited from animal rights advocates through clips of animals that have been rescued. It is so joyful seeing the rescued animals running and playing in a happy and safe environment.
I watched this movie as part of the Documentary Edge Festival in Auckland today. I absolutely loved it and can't rate it highly enough. It will definitely appeal to those who are already converted to the idea that animals are treated as another nation, which we appear to be at war with. However, I think it will also appeal to others who try to understand the world around them and why there are so many people so very passionate about exposing the horrors of animal exploitation. We constantly complain about how the media keep us ill informed of the real issues, yet so many people are not interested in viewing any images that reflect the horrors of reality. This documentary shows the difficulty of engaging the mainstream media in such issues and through the eyes of someone who has chosen to dedicate her life to exposing reality in an attempt to get people to change how they perceive and interact with animals. We also get introduced to a range of very unique animal personalities, such as a rescue cow and her calf, and a rescue pig and her gorgeous rambunctious piglets- they all live in an animal sanctuary now. We also get to lock eyes with those who are not so fortunate- and we know that their fate lies with changes in market attitudes, such as not buying fur, not eating meat, not visiting dolphinariums or zoos. It seems like a massive challenge; to change consumer behaviours that are so ingrained in people's psyche but at least Jo-Anne McArthur is trying.
Ghosts is one of the most, if not the most, beautifully filmed and constructed documentaries I've ever seen. And it is surely the most moving and powerful film I've ever seen regarding our complex, and frankly shameful and abhorrent, relationships with the sentient beings among us, hidden from us, that we call animals. To be able to look through director Liz Marshal's and protagonist Jo-Anne MacArthur's lenses into the eyes of beings whom we know to be fully present and to possess the senses and faculties to know and experience deeply the unfathomable suffering we impose on them for the most fleeting, trifling and unjustifiable purposes imaginable is an experience not soon to be forgotten and one which should be widely shared and experienced. The astonishingly beautiful sanctuary scenes are a source of great joy and hope for a future of compassion, empathy and liberation for the ghosts and for all beings.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Documentaries are designed to educate, and that is the stated purpose of Liz Marshall's film. Two years in production, Marshall chooses to tell the story of the treatment of animals are through the eyes of activist Jo-Anne McCarthur. McArthur, a self professed animal-lover, beds down with cows, sheep, and pigs in her quest to demonstrate that animals are humans (www.torontopigsave.org). Marshall's film has a number of problems, but the main one is she became too close to her subject. In the credits, the Vancouver Aquarium is condemned as they refused to be interviewed. Perhaps they figured out in advance that her film was anything but balanced? Marshall also deliberately confuses the issues of animals raised for human consumption versus animal research and factory farms. Temple Grandin, who favours humane slaughter methods, is one of the only talking heads who doesn't buy McCarthur's party line "we love all animals"). Marshall is an accomplished film maker, and there can be no excuse for such a one-sided portrayal of a complex issue.
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