Ghosts in Our Machine, The
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Ghosts in Our Machine, The

This animal-rights doc is tough on the heart, but more than worth it.

DIRECTED BY LIZ MARSHALL (Canada, Canadian Spectrum)
4 Stars


Sunday, April 28, 6:30 p.m.
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West)

Wednesday, May 1, 11 a.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)

Saturday, May 4, 11 a.m.
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West)

Award-winning Toronto photographer Jo-Anne McArthur has devoted herself to documenting the animals she refers to as “ghosts”: those that different industries rely upon for their products. Her work takes her, usually in secret, to places most of us never see: factory farms, fur farms, and animal-testing laboratories. The Ghosts in Our Machine uses McArthur’s work as a way examining our relationships with these animals. Are they sentient beings who deserve rights, or are they merely property to use as we please?

The documentary is beautifully shot, and it’s highlighted by McArthur’s visually arresting still photography. That said, it’s not easy to watch. It isn’t heavy on gore—though a few shots inside slaughterhouses may be a bit much for the squeamish—but it forces the viewer to think of animals as individuals, and to face the conditions they live in. McArthur pursues that same goal with her photography, which singles out individuals from the billions of animals killed each year for food, clothing, and research. The mental weight of much of the documentary is offset by shots of McArthur’s comparatively peaceful time at Farm Sanctuary in New York.

The Ghosts in Our Machine is not a feel-good documentary, but it’s a powerful one that will stick with you for days after you’ve watched it.

See All Hot Docs 2013 Reviews