Photo Credit: The Ghosts In Our Machine
The Ghosts In Our Machine hopes to see a U.S. release this fall. Photo Credit: The Ghosts In Our Machine

Anthony Armentano, exclusive to Global Animal

With the substantial amount of well-made, animal-centric documentaries in release as of late, it’s tough to stand out in the crowd. However, director Liz Marshall’s The Ghosts In Our Machine does exactly that, in addition to bringing an important message to dinner tables, closets, laboratories, as well as zoos and marine parks across the globe.

Focusing around activist/photographer Jo-Anne McArthur and her yearlong journey documenting animals held captive by four different global industries, the film does an incredible job of spotlighting those tragically forgotten by society. McArthur’s photographs are an integral part of the film and the activist movement as a whole.

The distress captured in McArthur’s photographs is powerful and real, and the imagery is certainly enough to change the way people think about these formerly faceless animals.

With regard to her photography, McArthur says, “I wouldn’t say that I take photographs of animals. I would say that I photograph the predicament that animals are in because of humans.”

Her statement holds true to the film, because it’s most powerful aspects develop when comparing the animals depicted suffering in cages and the rehabilitated animals who have managed to escape their industries, or the “machine.”

Direcor Liz Marshall (center) attends Hot Docs Canadian Internation Documentary Film Festival, where The Ghosts In Our Machine recieved honors as crowd favorite. Photo Credit: Cameron MacLennan
Director Liz Marshall (center) attends Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, where “The Ghosts In Our Machine” received honors as crowd favorite. Photo Credit: Cameron MacLennan

At the start of the film, the filmmakers scope out a fox fur farm, and take heartbreaking photographs of the animals’ confinement. Since the operation was a delicate one, Marshall admits the farm investigation took about four months to plan, but her caution paid off.

The filmmakers got in and out of the fur facility discreetly, and McArthur was able to walk away with some haunting pictures. Her photography is important to the cause, because it allows viewers to face the truth.

“You connect with them because you’re looking in their eyes and they’re looking in yours,” McArthur says.

Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur
In her photography, Jo-Anne McArthur captures the torment and fear these animals live with everyday at a fox fur farm. Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur

The film’s ultimate goal is to get consumers to think about their personal choices and the billions of animals affected by those choices every year. As a filmmaker, Marshall believes the documentary can sway consumers in a new direction, without strong-arming them into change.

“The takeaway for this project, for The Ghosts in Our Machine, is simple but profound and that is that as consumers, we can all make a difference for the [industry animals] each and every day. That will be different for different people so it’s not our role to tell people what they should do but there’s many, many ways that people can make a difference,” Marshall explains.

The Ghosts In Our Machine has already made a name for itself in Canada, especially Toronto, where Marshall lives. It won an award at the 2013 Yorktown Film Festival for best nature/environment documentary, and was an audience favorite at Hot Docs, one of the largest documentary film festivals in the world. Marshall is currently busy planning the film’s U.S. debut, which is set for this coming fall.

If you’re in the States and can’t wait to see the film, a donation page has been set up on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, and donors can receive a number of gifts depending on their donation amount. Marshall’s film has already received two thirds of its donation goal of $30,000 but the funding event ends on September 27. The money will be used to release the film in New York, Los Angeles, and possibly San Francisco this fall. 

To make a donation, click here.

The Ghosts In Our Machine is at the forefront of the animal activist movement, and will no doubt be the catalyst for further change.

Also, make sure to take a look at for an up-to-date list of screenings, informative blog posts, ghost-free recipes, photo galleries, an interactive companion story to the documentary, and much more.

Watch The Ghosts in our Machine trailer below.

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