Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Ghosts In Our Machine: Through the Lens & Straight to Our Hearts

The Ghosts in Our Machine
Image from www.theghostsinourmachine.com
We live in a world where YouTube dog videos can peak above one million views, becoming a must-watch and share for those who consider themselves animal lovers. The same extends to sharing funny cat pictures. Even a Norwegian comedy duo can create a music video inquiring "What Does The Fox Say?" and get viral appeal from the masses. We gravitate toward the fun, funny, light, and positive - which is completely legitimate. However, in doing so, we often directly ignore another world of animals - a world that's very present, a world that's very real, a world that's unfortunate and sad and needs our attention just as much as the lovable world of "I Can Haz Cheezburger?" photos. This world, the expansive, global world involving animal captivity & cruelty, is potently shared with us in the powerful, beautiful, haunting documentary, The Ghosts in Our Machine.

Following on the heels of the widely-released Blackfish and the limited-released Speciesism: The Movie, Ghosts is entering our theaters and our hearts and minds at exactly the right moment - at a time where human awareness, global responsibility, and our connection to compassion are coming into focus. With masterful & sharp cinematic precision, director Liz Marshall continues the necessary march into greater consciousness by documenting and educating us about what is and what can be.

We're immediately immersed into our own journey with video and photos of the eyes of animals. From the start, we're invited to delve into the eyes of animals through our own eyes and begin an adventure of bearing witness. We see beings that are inherently different from us in some ways - with fur, scales, hooves, snouts - yet connect to us in the most important way regarding our existence on Earth: we see, we breathe, we live. And, with the support of groundbreaking research (plus knowing our own personal relationships with companion animals), we feel.

We Animals
Image from Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals
The film is guided by our protagonist, acclaimed photographer Jo-Anne McArthur (We Animals), creating a seamless blend of narrative and documentary as she travels from location to location, capturing the realities of animals living "in the machine" of today's world (fur farms, factory farms, breeding farms, laboratories, entertainment corporations, etc.). She reveals the stark truth about our falsely mainstream lovable relationship with animals through her photos of individual animals that represent the billions who are held in captivity and commodified for their fur/skin (for clothing), their flesh/secretions (for food), and their physical presence/bodies/abilities (for entertainment & experimentation).

Through the mixed medium of photography and film, we walk alongside Jo-Anne on the adventure, directly confronting the emotion that can be captured in a still image. We, whether we ever have truly made the connection, see loneliness, despair, fear, terror, depression in the eyes and bodies of these animals trapped in cages & crates, strapped to carts - reminiscent of photos from WWII concentration camps.

captivity mink farming
Image from Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals
To balance out the sad truth we witness, we're also taken to a wonderful place of joy, of hope, of play and freedom and love, continuing to bear witness - only, this time, through the eyes of liberated animals living out their lives at an animal sanctuary. This juxtaposition - from confinement to open pastures, from injured & malnourished to clean, well-fed, and frolicking - provides a cogent testimony of why this world is a better place when we act from unconditional love and care, regardless of species.

We are forced to reexamine the words "compassion" and "sentience," defining whether they apply only to human animals or non-human animals too. Our reexamination also involves the word "dominion," and we must determine if we have strayed from "hold dominion over (as a shepherd, a guide, a watcher)" and moved into "to dominate." Ultimately, I don't think the question starts with "if," rather "how much" - and the still & moving portraits of the monkeys, beagles, pigs, foxes, cows, dolphins in the film show just how much we've let our fellow earthlings down.

Underscored perfectly by music (including one of the most beautiful Radiohead songs to close out the film) and valuable voiceover to match the visual environment, Ghosts is a complete film that brings us an incomplete answer, left up to us to further explore and act upon. Through the questions that arise during the film, though, we can only discover that our answer - to "What will we do with this information/presentation moving forward?" - will spring from our own embodiment of compassion and how strong it is (or if it even exists at all).

animals cages factory farming
Image from www.theghostsinourmachine.com
I'm left with chills, which I already experienced throughout watching, as I wipe the tears from my eyes. We are at a precipice in human existence, a crossroads where we must realize that human rights and animals rights are in partnership with one another - and to ignore or abolish one is to negatively impact the other. As we are exposed to the work and education of heroic journeymen & journeywomen like Jo-Anne McArthur and Liz Marshall, we must know that we have the choice: to contribute to and support the problem or be part of the solution. Like an actively moving museum and story all bundled into one, The Ghosts in Our Machine is an essential experience for everyone, an opportunity to connect or reconnect with our inherent compassion and help save the world.

This film is not just for us. This is for those who cannot speak on their own behalf (beyond the squeals and screams, the howls and bellows). This is for those who are trapped within a tragic, unnatural system (beyond the liberations and occasional escapes and runs to freedom). This is for those whose lives are taken without a second thought, for selfish gain (beyond the few who have a safe, warm home and sit by our side).
for the ghosts
This is For The Ghosts.
__________

"I truly believe that it's innate that we're all compassionate and that if we're given the opportunity to care, we will." ~ Jo-Anne McArthur
__________


The Ghosts in Our Machine is currently running its U.S. Oscar Qualifying Campaign after releasing in Canada. You can see the film this month and in December in New York City (through Nov. 21st), Los Angeles (Nov. 15th-21st), 
San Francisco, Chicago, and Columbus (further cities TBD). For screening dates/times, ticket information, and more about the film, please visit


NOTE: There is nothing graphic about this film, specifically in what is deemed graphic (blood, death, etc.). What could be considered graphic in another way is the sheer neglect, disconnection, and abuse that's present within all animal industries, obviously expressed through the featured animals.

2 comments:

Kylie @ FotV said...

Sounds like a beautiful film, I am excited to see it. I find it powerful and amazing that so many films on raising our awareness and compassion are coming out in the past couple years. I truly hope this means we are evolving as humans and a higher level of consciousness is on the horizon.

Steven Todd Smith, CHHC, AADP said...

Kylie, very well said. I believe that we are evolving, that our connection to this higher consciousness, this higher vibration is becoming more and more palpable. There's a tipping point, still a distance away, but we're moving toward it much quicker. Compassion, global responsibility, and more fit into this higher level of consciousness. The more we live by (positive) example and share with others, the more we all grow. Thanks for your comment!