Jo-Anne McArthur, a professional photographer who has dedicated her off-hours to the development of the We Animals project, is the subject of the feature-length documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine. You can check out the trailer here.
The film was a top-ten audience favourite at this year’s Hot Docs festival in Toronto, and animal advocates from Ingrid Newkirk to James Cromwell to the Our Hen House hosts to Jason Priestly (what?) are abuzz with excitement that this film might have what it takes to get mainstream audiences to have serious second thoughts about the spectacularly horrible crap humans do to our fellow earthlings.
The film follows McArthur over the course of a year as she photographs several animal stories in parts of Canada, the U.S. and in Europe. Each story and photograph is a window into global animal industries: Research; Food; Fashion and Entertainment.
But the film as a whole is as much the story of McArthur herself, who has spent more than a decade trying to bring the plight of animals to light through her photographs – often at great personal risk. As Jo-Anne says, “I feel like I’m a war photographer and I’m photographing history; I’m photographing changes in history right now.”
And while the horror of the film’s subject matter cannot be overemphasized, director Liz Marshall was kind enough to steer clear of graphic imagery, and to include some substantial rays of sunshine in the story. Whether though Jo-Anne’s visits to the idyllic pastures of Farm Sanctuary or her unshakable certainty that human beings are essentially good, the film offers enough buoyancy to prevent audiences from fleeing the theatre in search of the nearest liquor store.
So at this point, I am assuming that I have convinced 90% of you to go. If you’re still on the fence, here are a couple more arguments:
1) Jo-Anne McArthur and director Liz Marshall will be on hand for post-film Qs and As, as well as for some other events that will be held in conjunction with the film’s Ottawa premiere. I’ll provide more detail on these events in the next couple of weeks.
2) Jo-Anne is an Ottawa native. So even if you hate movies, civic pride alone should compel you to come. And if you’re worried that the disturbing subject matter will freak you out or give you nightmares, you’ll just have to suck it up. If it gets too bad you can hide under a chair with me and share the paper bag I’m sure to be hyperventilating into.
And don’t forget to bring a friend. If you’re reading the NCVA blog, chances are you’re already at least a little bit haunted by the ghosts in our machine. It’s the, shall we say, “unbelievers” who will benefit most from seeing this film.