The Ghosts in Our Machine, the acclaimed documentary film about the dramatic reality largely hidden from our view - the lives of individual animals living within and rescued from the machine of our modern world - has begun its awards-season run in four major U.S. markets.
Liz Marshall directs The Ghosts in Our Machine through the heart and lens of award-winning animal photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. Over the course of a year, Marshall shadows McArthur throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe as she documents animal stories, with each photograph and story serving as a window into global industries using animals for food, clothing, entertainment and biomedical research. McArthur's epic photo project We Animals is comprised of thousands of photographs taken around the world, documenting animals with heart-breaking empathic vividness.
This visually arresting one-of-a-kind documentary shines a cinematic light on the animals we don't easily acknowledge - the "ghosts" - who are trapped within the cogs of our voracious consumer world. Haunting and heart-warming, audiences encounter a diverse cast of animal subjects who invite us to consider whether non-human animals are property to be owned and used, or sentient beings deserving of rights. The Ghosts in Our Machine also charts McArthur's efforts to bring wider attention to a topic most of humankind strives hard to avoid.
Here's the trailer:
Liz Marshall answers a few questions for me:
Why create this film?
Because it needed to be made, and the timing is fertile.
My life partner Lorena Elke encouraged me to make a film about the animal issue. Prior to making The Ghosts in Our Machine I was focused on films about human and environmental issues, The Ghosts in Our Machine is an extension of that body of work, it is also a film very grounded in the human condition because it reflects back to us our treatment of and impact upon other species. Also, it is a subject matter being embraced by the environmental movement, more and more, which we see as a significant advancement. So, Lorena inspired me to tackle this epic subject matter and to make the connections between animal rights, human rights and environmental rights. Jo-Anne McArthur inspired the approach I wanted to take - her photographs invite the viewer to consider nonhuman animals as individuals; I wanted to create a film that would do that as well.
Fox in fur farm
What do you hope to achieve?
The film attempts to convey big moral questions through a human narrative – a heroine – and to give audiences an experience that lasts for hours, days, or hopefully a lifetime. Our main goal is for the film to be seen far and wide, by a broad and diverse audience, to raise consciousness about a subject that has been marginalized and stigmatized within dominant social justice movements, and within dominant culture. Ghosts is part of the zeitgeist of social change that is taking root around us, and the greatest hope is for it to continue to be a catalyst for change and inspiration. My greatest motivation as a filmmaker is to use the power of documentary filmmaking to open people’s eyes, to pose significant questions.
Really fantastic! The film has garnered several international awards and nods. It was voted a Top Ten Audience Favorite at the international Hot Docs Film Festival, and a Top Twenty Audience Favorite at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the largest documentary film festival in the world. Our theatrical run across Canada in eleven cities stimulated national media and healthy dialogue for the issues raised in the film. We just recently conducted a U.S. Oscar-Qualifying Theatrical Release campaign, and ticket sales were strong enough that theaters in both New York and Los Angeles extended our run.
The NY Times, LA Times and the Village Voice, most notably, reviewed the film very favorably. As well, we were featured in countless blogs leading up to our US release, so the attention was trickling down and swelling upward concurrently. A great team helped to make this phase of the project a reality including our Indiegogo fundraising donors that made our Oscar-qualifying campaign possible, and other funders including Animal Welfare Trust, VegFund, and our US fiscal sponsor Women Make Movies. We also had strong grassroots support from our campaign partners: Animal Legal Defense Fund, Compassion Over Killing, Kimmela Center For Animal Advocacy, Mercy For Animals, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, PETA, and of course Farm Sanctuary, which is featured in the film.
Abbey on her rescue day
Why is this documentary important for activists and the general public?
There are many great animal rights films, and may more to come, but I hope activists will use this film in ways that perhaps other films cannot be used.The Ghosts in Our Machine is not a polemic-style film and it’s not graphic and violent, instead it’s a gentle film with dramatic impact. It was created to reach a broader audience. It shows that as consumers, we can all make a difference each and every day for the ghosts. It will make its way into the Educational market with the help of distributors, there is an emerging focus, academically speaking, on animal rights and animal studies, and we want Ghosts to become part of curriculum. As well, 2014 will be focused on Community Screenings; this will be significant because it’s an opportunity to engage in deeper discussion around the issues, to help facilitate ways to go further. Jo-Anne and I are both very committed to this next phase of the project. Details will be released in early 2014.
Liz Marshall is a Gemini-nominated, award-winning auteur filmmaker who fuses character-driven cinematic storytelling with social and environmental justice issues. Since the 90s she has created a body of documentary projects shot all over the world which focus on a range of subjects including: animal use and animal sentience; the right to water movement; HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa; sweatshop labor; censorship affecting writers and journalists, war-affected children; music icons and the written and spoken word. Liz is well versed in the craft of conceptual point-of-view storytelling as a means of exploring complex issues.
About Jo-Anne McArthur:
Award-winning photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur has been documenting the plight of animals on all seven continents for over ten years. Her documentary project, We Animals, is internationally celebrated and over 100 animal organizations, among them Igualdad Animal, Sea Shepherd and the Jane Goodall Institute, have benefited from her photography. Many organizations have also worked with her closely on campaigns and investigations. The first We Animals photo book is being published by Lantern Books in late 2013.