Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A CLOSER LOOK: THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE

“THINK OCCASIONALLY OF THE SUFFERING OF WHICH YOU SPARE YOURSELF THE SIGHT,” philosopher Albert Schweitzer once famously said. In the new documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine, we are asked to look directly at what society routinely averts its gaze from—the lives of the animals we share this planet with. In reality, of course, as this film shows—”sharing” is inaccurate. With over 150 billion animals killed for human consumption annually, and billions more killed for fashion, in vivisection, and exploited for entertainment—”dominating” is a more fitting description of our relationship with our fellow earthlings. Nearly every global industry profits off of the bodies of animals. The film urges the viewer to consider the pain behind ubiquitous things like a pair of leather shoes; the container of milk at the supermarket; a household cleaning product; the circus tent, or the aquarium. The Ghosts in Our Machine arrives at a timely moment, when we as a society are starting to more actively address the moral conundrum and the injustice of hurting animals for our perceived benefit. The film follows renown photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, as she tirelessly documents animals in captivity and in freedom over the course of a year. Through her journey, we discover not only the gravity of animal suffering, but also the depth of animal sentience, as well as our undeniable bond with animals. Here, director Liz Marshall, who has been creating social justice-related projects for close to two decades, offers us some insights into her latest film.

 

 

One can’t say that this documentary is about animals alone, with Jo as a protagonist. It’s also about the human-animal experience. Was that the goal? To make the subject matter more relatable to those unfamiliar with the situation by showing it though the eyes of a compassionate person?
As a social-issue filmmaker I look for creative engaging ways to tell complicated stories, with the hope of elevating tough issues. Not an easy task. It is an issue film, yes, but it is also a cinematic narrative about a photographer. The sentience of animals is at the heart of the film and the sentience of Jo-Anne McArthur is the connective thread that weaves the stories of animal enslavement and liberation together. Through Jo’s heart and lens we meet a cast of nonhuman animals. My instinct to feature Jo as the films’ protagonist was the narrative device that helped me get clearer about the vision I wanted for the film. I knew I wanted the film to focus on the four main animal industries: Food; Research; Fashion and Entertainment, but was looking for a story. Anchoring the issues through an accessible human story of courage and purpose was a way for us all (including the cinematographers and editors) to illustrate ideas and values (like empathy), by showing and not telling.

By changing just one word (“the” to “our”), the title turned a common expression into something deeply reflexive and compelling. But did you ever worry that our fearful cultural associations with the word “ghosts” could misconstrue the title for anyone? Or has that word and title in fact worked to your advantage in bringing more attention to the plight of animals?
Thanks. I love the reflexivity of the title – and believe me I laboured over it – tossed and turned at night! ‘ghost in the machine’ is a common phrase, like ‘return to sender’, I made sure to get legal consultation about this title issue and then we did a professional name search as well, for insurance purposes, because the title was just too important and I wanted to lock into it with confidence during our development phase!  I wanted a variation on the phrase, so that we aren’t looking outward, wagging a finger at someone or some corporate entity, but rather looking at ourselves: Oh, I am part of the machine! Aha! What can I do about that? Also, importantly, a good title inspires the filmmaking process. THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE is a conceptual title and it is always with me, informing the project. The ‘ghosts’ are the billions of animals used within the machine of our modern world; they are hidden in the shadows of our highly mechanized world.

Jo-Anne McArthur during a fox fur farm investigation, Europe. Photo by Liz Marshall.

What did you learn about animals that you didn’t know before you set off
on this path?

A lot. About their moral significance. About their sentience, as defined by the latest scientific reports. About the global magnitude of their suffering. These are things I knew about before, and had sensitivity to, but in living and breathing this project for almost 3 years now, I know it more deeply, as do other key members of our team.  Also, I got to spend time with rescued animals, and form relationships with some of them. It was mind blowing to know Fanny, a former spent dairy cow featured in the film. She is remarkable, so unique and gentle. I miss her and hope to see her at Farm Sanctuary again soon!

And similarly, what did you learn about yourself?
I think I have learned a lot about myself. On a personal level I have learned that it is possible and so vital and important to embrace and connect all forms of social justice: human rights, environmental rights and animal rights. They are interconnected. I didn’t really know that was entirely possible before but do now! On a professional level, I can see that the years and years I have spent (well I am not that old, but since 1995) honing the craft and exploring the language of documentary, and traveling the world with projects, and exploring social issues, I feel that everything has come together with this project. And how that manifests is that I am at peace with the film, it is the film I wanted to make. With other films, there was always something nagging at me that I wanted to change. Don’t get me wrong, there are some details in the film that I would love to change, but I can live with them, I am at peace. Also, the experience of working within this genre and industry has given me added incentive and determination to try to do everything we possibly can to make an impact with this project.

Do you feel like you have a different purpose as a filmmaker now?
Not a different purpose no, but a more defined one. My next project won’t be a romantic comedy, let’s put it that way!

Any future plans to make more films on the subject of animals?
I can’t imagine what it could be … There are many many films about the subject of animals to be made, and they will be made. This my offering, for the ghosts.

 

The Ghosts in Our Machine is currently screening in Canada, and preparing for its release in the United States. The filmmakers are seeking investors to ensure the widest release possible and are also accepting donations.

Learn more about the film:
The Ghosts in Our Machine

Read our exclusive ten-page story, featuring the photography and
narrative of Jo-Anne McArthur in our new Summer 2013 Issue.

Top photo by Jo-Anne McArthur
Introduction and interview by Julie Gueraseva

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

THE SECOND ISSUE HAS ARRIVED!

LOVELY READERS, WE ARE SO THRILLED TO SHARE OUR Second Issue: Summer Abundance Issue! Brimming with vibrant content, bursting with color— this is the place where creativity and compassion converge. We have compelling profiles on future luminaries like our amazing cover star Clara Polito, who at only sixteen years old is already leaving an indelible mark on the world with her vegan bakery Clara Cakes and her passionate activism. Style and substance come together in our first-of-its kind stunning 8 page feature on vegan and ethical fashion, styled by Joshua Katcher. And we continue to showcase the most brilliant discoveries in everything from food to beauty. Of course, as always, we dig deeper with uncompromising features on animals. Like the photo essay and exclusive narrative from groundbreaking photographer Jo-Anne McArthur— for the first time in print, including never-before-seen images from her archives. Contributors like renown author James McWilliams return with spectacularly thought-provoking essays.

Clara Polito Clara Cakes Laika

We get invited into the homes and lives of paradigm-shifting trailblazers like triathlete and Vega founder Brendan Brazier, who shares his lifelong expert knowledge on wellness; and Chef and restaurateur Makini Howell of the celebrated Plum Bistro who gives us an inside look into her signature cuisine. We travel around the country to bring you the most fascinating stories from activists, some who are raising their kids vegan, and others who are declaring their compassion in the form of tattoos.

And that’s just the beginning! With nearly 20 pages more content than the Premier Issue, we have the most innovative and exciting subject matter in the vegan community covered. Made with love, from the heart, this issue is a bold declaration of the limitless possibilities of compassionate living and the abundance of sensory enjoyment that it holds for everyone.

We hope you love our Second Issue: Summer Abundance Issue as much as we loved making it! It will be arriving to our subscribers in the first week of July and hitting newsstands soon after that, and is now available to order on our site! Stay tuned for extras, outtakes, and behind-the-scenes videos. We’re so thrilled and grateful to have you along for this ride!

Cover photographed by Sylvia Elzafon

Clara Polito feature “Girl Wonder” photographed by Joel Barhamand

Fashion feature “Summer Fling” photographed by Balarama Heller

“Philly Flavor” photographed by Hannah Kaminsky

 

 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

LAIKA IN YOUR TOWN: NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

DEAR FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS, after a lot of hard work we are a nationally-distributed magazine! Woo-hoo! You can find us everywhere, from NYC to Oregon to Kentucky and even Germany. Please see the full list below. Grab our Premier Issue while it’s still on stands— it’s a Collector’s Edition. And coming to those locations in just a few short weeks is our Second Issue!! We are so excited and can’t wait for you to see.

ARIZONA
Crescent Tobacco Shop
200 E. Congress St.
Tucson, AZ 85701

Crescent Tobacco Shop
7037 E. Tanque Verde Road
Tucson, AZ 85715

CALIFORNIA
Skylight Books
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Viva La Vegan
9456 Roberds St
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91707

Issues Shop
20 Glen Ave.
Oakland, CA 94611

Paras News
3911 30 St
San Diego, CA 92104

Newsbeat
514 Third St.
Davis, CA 95616

COLORADO
Magpies Newsstand Cafe
707 Main Ave.
Durango, CO 81301

Nooch Vegan Market
336 Larimer Street
Denver, CO 80205

CONNECTICUT
Foodworks
450 Boston Post Road
Guilford, CT 06437

Foodworks
1000 Boston Post Rd,
Old Saybrook, CT 06475

WASHINGTON, DC
Capitol News Room
1803 Connecticut Ave, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009

Metro Center News
1200 G St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20005

FLORIDA
Bob’s News & Books
1515 South Andrews Ave
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316

ILLINOIS
Quimby’s Books
1854 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

City Newsstand
4018 N. Cicero,
Chicago, IL 60641

Cady’s
210 N. Lafayette,
Macomb, IL 61455

INDIANA
Book Corner
100 N. Walnut St.,
Bloomington, IN 47404

KENTUCKY
sQecial Media
371 S Limestone St,
Lexington, KY 40508

MARYLAND
Atomic Books
3620 Falls Rd
BaltImore, MD 21211

MASSACHUSETTS
Newsbreak
53 Popes Island
New Bedford, MA 02740

Red Lion Smoke Shop
94 Washington St.
Salem, MA 01970

NEW YORK
Around The World Fashion Publications
148 W. 37 St.
New York, NY 10018

Bedford Exotics
195 Bedford Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Bouwerie Iconic Magazines
215 Bowery
New York, NY 10002

Gem Spa Newsstand
131 2nd Ave.
New York, NY 10003

Global News
22 8th Ave
New York, NY 10014

Lafayette Smoke Shop
63 Spring St.
New York, NY 10012

Magazine Cafe
15 W. 37th St.
New York, NY 10018

Moo Shoes
78 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002

N.N. News
317 6 Ave.
New York, NY 10014

Pratt News & Magazine
477 Myrtle Ave.
Brooklyn, 78 Orchard Street
New York, NY 11205

Times Square News
362 W. 42 ST.
New York, NY 10036

OHIO
Little Professor Books
65 S. Court St.
Athens, OH 45701

Cincinnati Fountain Square News
101 East 5th St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Bank News
4025 Clark Ave
Cleveland, OH 44109

OREGON
Book Bin
450 Court Street NE
Salem, OR 97301

Rich’s
820 SW Alder St.
Portland, OR 97205

Herbivore Clothing
1211 SE Stark St
Portland, OR 9721

PENNSYLVANIA
Avril 50
3406 Sansom St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104

TEXAS
AAA News, Inc.
1500 West Stassney Lane
Austin, TX 78745

Andrew’s News
4016 E. Belknap St.
Fort Worth, TX 76111

WISCONSIN
Booked Solid
7035 W. Greenfield Ave.
West Allis, WI 53214

INTERNATIONAL

GERMANY

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Berlin, Germany