Award-winning film The Ghosts In Our Machine has for several months been making the festival rounds, leaving in its wake innumerable moved viewers the globe over. And now, at long last, the Canadian documentary travels to the US, premiering in New York City this Friday and Los Angeles next Friday, each special screening followed by a weeklong theatrical run.
It’s a toss up as to who’s most stoked; filmmaker Liz Marshall, protagonist Jo-Anne McArthur or anticipatory fans that call either the East Coast or the West Coast home. Regardless, given the buzz that’s been building for over a year, everyone in the know is excited to witness Ghosts penetrate the states.
The film follows McArthur, a renowned photographer, as she documents the plight of animals—from laboratory beagles to aquaria, dairy cows to fur farms—around the world. Featuring pristine production and a cast of compelling nonhuman animals, the overall experience is nothing if not beautiful, and we dare say essential viewing.
In advance of Ghosts’ US debut, Marshall discusses her latest cinematic effort, why the timing is right and how this thought-provoking piece stands apart from the pack.
Why did Ghosts need to be made?
Because this issue is on the rise. There’s a growing awareness surrounding animal sentience that’s repeatedly striking a nerve within our culture. There needed to be a film that helps bridge the divide between those who understand and those who don’t quite “get it,” or who are hesitant to confront reality. People claim they care about animals, yet are complicit in the system that uses animals. The time is fertile for this kind of film.
What makes you say, “the time is fertile”?
Animal rights is the next frontier of social justice work. It’s on the heels of—and inextricably tied to—the green revolution. What we’ve seen with the environmental movement is that more and more people want to be better stewards of the earth. But animals are frequently left out of the equation. They’ve always come last. Their welfare. Their predicament. The plight of these animals living in obscurity within the machine of our modern world.
This is an urgent moral dilemma that needs to be on the agenda. Animals deserve our collective attention. This film is an offering. It’s an invitation for people to open their eyes, remove their blinders, and meet the ghosts.
What differentiates this film from other documentaries tackling the topic?
Ghosts is a character-driven narrative documentary focused on human protagonist Jo-Anne McArthur. Through her lens we meet a cast of animals who, with the movie as their medium, convey their agency. Some have stories and names. Others are anonymous, like the foxes in the fur farms. We know they are not alive today. Whereas [rescued dairy cows] Fanny and Sonny are thriving at Farm Sanctuary. So, there’s this ebb and flow in the storytelling between animals trapped within the machine and those who have been rescued from it.
What do you hope to achieve with this film?
Ghosts is a consciousness-raising film. As a documentary filmmaker, it’s very rewarding to know you’re reaching communities and touching people. We want viewers to leave the theater and see animals differently forever.
New York City | Friday November 8 – Thursday November 14 | Village East Cinema | 181-189 2nd Ave. | 6 Screenings/Day
Los Angeles | Friday November 15 – Thursday November 21 | Laemmle Theater | 9036 Wilshire Blvd. | 3 Screenings/Day
Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals