Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 07/5/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
As a call to action for animal rights activists, the doc The Ghosts in Our Machine is well-meaning but polemically challenged.
It takes on the issue, literally, through the lens of photographer-activist Jo-Anne McArthur, a woman who makes her living sneaking into fur farms or testing facilities to take shots of distressed animals suffering under the yoke of human oppression.
Early in the film, at a meeting with editors looking for print venues for McArthur's work, there is much discussion about just how distressing the photographs could get, given the sensitivities of the public. One man suggests the photos must be "PG" if they have any chance of seeing print.
Director Liz Marshall seems to have taken that advice to heart -- note the film's classification -- at the expense of making any serious impact.
Thus we see McArthur surreptitiously visiting a fox farm in Europe where the animals are cruelly caged by the hundreds. She takes her photos. Under her breath, she apologizes to one of the foxes for its momentary inconvenience.
In a remarkable contrast to that scenario, McArthur also visits a rescue farm where animals of all types have been awarded an idyllic free-range life after being rescued from pathetic circumstances on industrialized farms.
The movie's focus wanders over several manifestations of animal abuse encompassing food, fashion, research and entertainment. In this latter category, seaside aquariums are singled out for drafting intelligent animals such as dolphins to act as props and stooges for our enjoyment.
If you find that spectacle to be awful, as I do, you may experience some anger. If you don't, you'll probably think of it as an innocuous SeaWorld interlude. This is the kind of movie that requires that you bring your disapproval with you, instead of spontaneously fomenting it.
The film had many options when it came to engaging our outrage, including an elaboration of the frequently heard assertion animals are sentient beings deserving the same respect accorded to humans. A more intimate look at McArthur herself might have yielded a deeper consideration of her cause, but she remains by the end of the film as distant and elusive a character as when we first met her.
Instead of rousing the rabble, The Ghosts in Our Machine stays as ephemeral and cerebral as its title.
Her pictures -- many obtained by guerilla-tactic means -- are not easy to look at, and in Liz Marshall's largely moving documentary we come to understand that's the point: Once we begin to empathize with these animals, we can't ignore them quite so easily.
-- Geoff Pevere, Globe and Mail
The film is unlikely to bring any fence sitters around to McArthur's point of view. In fact, the scenes of her hugging a cow could even have the opposite effect.
-- Chris Knight, National Post
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2013 D5
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
'Furious 7' holds on to box office; 'Age of Ultron' looms
Howie Mandel hits Hot Docs festival with 'Committed'
Seriously silly, Monty Python reunites for a weekend tribute
Nova Scotia film credit changes stir new fear
Angelina Jolie rips world powers on Syria's refugee crisis
Icelandic film about 43-year-old virgin tops Tribeca awards
Prickly man of pedal tests filmmaker's mettle
Being a grown-up isn't all it's cracked up to be
Bullock's publicist strikes a blow for actresses over 50
Pratt, Ice Cube, more debut new footage at CinemaCon
'Sugar Coated' explores health dangers of sweets
Renner, Evans apologize for 'juvenile' Black Widow joking
First footage shown of 'The Revenant,' 'The Martian,' 'Joy'
Review: 'Adaline' is both ludicrous and deeply moving
Dates announced for two '50 Shades' sequels
New on DVD/VOD
'Being Canadian' explores all things Canuck
Coming of age
Review: 'Age of Ultron' is an Avengers overdose
Review: 'Age of Ultron' is an Avengers overdose
First Look: Pixar's 'Inside Out' leaves audience in tears
'Ex Machina' director on AI, 'Blade Runner' assumptions
Nova Scotia film sector meets with government
Russell Crowe finds his roots with 'The Water Diviner'
Warner Bros. previews chilling Johnny Depp film , others
Head of movie association predicts record year at box office
Jake Gyllenhaal, Sienna Miller on Cannes Film Festival jury
Review: Indie 'Adult Beginners' explores familiar territory
Summer movie preview: How old are the franchises?
Xavier Dolan joins Cannes film festival jury
They Will Be Back: Sequels multiply in summer movie season
Canadian 'Sleeping Giant' heads to Cannes
Chinese and foreign film producers sign deals worth $2.3B