Friday, July 12, 2013

REVIEW: Bringing the Ghosts in Our Machine to Life

There are many ways of alerting people to “the animal holocaust,” as some call it (with no argument from me), and winning hearts and minds (and hands, feet and shopping lists).

Some are films and videos.

And of those, some are in-your-face graphic and shocking, such as the Scared Straight of animal advocacy documentaries, Earthlings, and PETA's classic Meet Your Meat.

Others, like the award-winning documentary Peaceable Kingdom, mitigate hard-to-bear moments of brutal, cover-your-eyes reality with no less emotionally overwhelming oases of peace, beauty and hope.

The Ghosts in Our Machine – a new feature-length documentary from Canada – is in the second category.

Directed by Liz Marshall, Ghosts lets us tag along with animal holocaust “war photographer” Jo-Anne McArthur (to quote her sad-eyed, mordant self-description), usually undercover in places we're never supposed to see (the “machine” where so much of our food, fibre and medicine comes from), but also in places of compassion, like Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York, where many of the very same species live free, content and unmolested.

A newborn calf awaits life in a crate.
Photo from the online gallery of Jo-Anne McArthur. 
It doesn't matter where McArthur finds her haunting subjects, whether abused and degraded in captivity or delighting (and delightful) in liberation. Her camera captures every individual's essence in a way that allows a fur-farmed fox or a rescued stockyard calf to speak ineffable volumes to us, eye to eye, soul to soul. And for that reason alone, The Ghosts in Our Machine should be required viewing for any human animal who professes to love other animals but doesn't quite walk the talk.

Marshall and McArthur bring the ghosts in our machine to life. And those animals' faces, so redolent of personhood, of naked fear, curiosity, affection and pleasure, may never stop haunting you. And that's a good thing.

View the trailer and visit the website to find out where to see The Ghosts in Our Machine

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