Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: The Ghosts in Our Machine

Atmospheric doc is a tone poem for the already convinced.

Nov 6, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1388958-Ghosts_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Following the animal-rights mission of a photographer who hopes dramatic pictures of caged animals will help change minds about their exploitation, Liz Marshall's Ghosts in Our Machine trades didacticism for first-person atmospherics. The moodily subjective work is best suited to viewers who already share most if not all of subject Jo-Anne McArthur's values; despite its obvious aesthetic appeal, its commercial value seems limited to niche bookings and special-event screenings for the activist community.

"I feel like a war photographer," McArthur says, carrying her camera into places she certainly isn't welcome and hoping what she finds will shock viewers back home out of their complacency. She sneaks into vast farms where thousands of animals are raised for their fur, stealing images of cramped quarters and infected wounds before employees arrive for the morning shift. "I'm not here to liberate them,” she says, though she doesn't explain why; presumably, she'd be too easy to prosecute if she and her local guides opened hundreds of cages and then published photos from the site.

As the scene changes, visiting sanctuaries for abandoned farm animals, marine theme parks and other settings, voiceovers elaborate on McArthur's conviction that her subjects are sentient creatures with as many rights as humans. She clearly identifies with the vegan protesters seen here, but the thesis gets muddy late in the film, where footage of slaughterhouses is accompanied by quotes from Temple Grandin, whose work is widely viewed as a way of making humanity's killing of cows more palatable to animal advocates.

Scenes where McArthur meets with editors and photo agents suggest the challenges she has getting work in front of non-activist newspaper and magazine readers. Make the work moving but not disturbing, she's told—a big request for a woman who is so deeply pained by what she has seen.

The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: The Ghosts in Our Machine

Atmospheric doc is a tone poem for the already convinced.

Nov 6, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1388958-Ghosts_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Following the animal-rights mission of a photographer who hopes dramatic pictures of caged animals will help change minds about their exploitation, Liz Marshall's Ghosts in Our Machine trades didacticism for first-person atmospherics. The moodily subjective work is best suited to viewers who already share most if not all of subject Jo-Anne McArthur's values; despite its obvious aesthetic appeal, its commercial value seems limited to niche bookings and special-event screenings for the activist community.

"I feel like a war photographer," McArthur says, carrying her camera into places she certainly isn't welcome and hoping what she finds will shock viewers back home out of their complacency. She sneaks into vast farms where thousands of animals are raised for their fur, stealing images of cramped quarters and infected wounds before employees arrive for the morning shift. "I'm not here to liberate them,” she says, though she doesn't explain why; presumably, she'd be too easy to prosecute if she and her local guides opened hundreds of cages and then published photos from the site.

As the scene changes, visiting sanctuaries for abandoned farm animals, marine theme parks and other settings, voiceovers elaborate on McArthur's conviction that her subjects are sentient creatures with as many rights as humans. She clearly identifies with the vegan protesters seen here, but the thesis gets muddy late in the film, where footage of slaughterhouses is accompanied by quotes from Temple Grandin, whose work is widely viewed as a way of making humanity's killing of cows more palatable to animal advocates.

Scenes where McArthur meets with editors and photo agents suggest the challenges she has getting work in front of non-activist newspaper and magazine readers. Make the work moving but not disturbing, she's told—a big request for a woman who is so deeply pained by what she has seen.

The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Kink
Film Review: Kink

James Franco and regular collaborator Christina Voros teach you everything you always wanted to know about fetish porn (but were afraid to ask). More »

14 Blades
Film Review: 14 Blades

Uneven martial-arts tale benefits from its flashy retro style. More »

Metro Manila
Film Review: Metro Manila

Less emotion and more action might have better served this near-thriller. More »

Salvo
Film Review: Salvo

Minimalist Mafioso movie features first-rate filmmaking, but shoots a few blanks in the plot department. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

The Expendables 3
Film Review: The Expendables 3

Third go-round for the aging mercenaries, this time fighting a ruthless arms dealer. Sylvester Stallone's B-movie formula is wearing thin. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here