If you’re worried about what you will see, I can reassure you now that “Ghosts” is not blood and gore. It’s aim is to reach a very large audience and bring to the public an important but overlooked question: “Are animals property, to be owned and used, or are they sentient beings, deserving of rights?”
Much of the emotions of watching the film, instead of coming from scenes of violence, come from seeing our use of animals through the eyes of the film’s human subject, animal activist and photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. Shots of her walking through city streets surrounded by animal products like meat and fur show the enormity of the task in front of her, and in front of us. As she stands looking at a fox in a fur farm cage, able only to photograph, she whispers “I’m so sorry.” The viewer begins to understand the difficulty of her work and why she says she feels like a “war photographer,” and why for her the hardest part of what she does is “having to close the doors and leave the animals behind.”
The harsh mechanical sounds and animal cries of fur farms and dairy farms are followed by the quiet and peaceful sounds of Farm Sanctuary. McArthur says the New York-based sanctuary is where she goes to recuperate from the negativity she witnesses – a shared sentiment as we go along with her in the film. A particularly moving story is that of Julia, a “gestation sow” or breeding pig, who was rescued after a whistleblower called Farm Sanctuary because the pregnant pig was being abused. The footage of her with her piglets, showing remarkable affection and forgiveness toward humans, is beyond amazing.
“Ghosts” shows other happy endings, like Maggie and Abbey, purpose-bred beagles used in a teaching facility and an animal testing lab, now adopted and living with a loving family. And Sonny, useless to the dairy industry and left to die in a stockyard, now loved at Farm Sanctuary. You get to follow Sonny’s journey to his new home.
Overall, at the end of “The Ghosts In Our Machine,” I felt a sense of hope, not despair. Despite all that McArthur has seen, she says in the film, “I truly believe that it’s innate that we’re all compassionate. And that if given the opportunity to care, we will.” I believe that “Ghosts” will present that opportunity to everyone who sees it.
See stills from “The Ghosts In Our Machine” below, and watch the trailer below. The “Ghosts” premieres in the U.S. in New York City on November 8th. For more screenings, click here.
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+ Remembering Roger Ebert and His ‘Forks Over Knives’ Review