Reviewed – The Ghosts in Our Machine. UK premier at Hackney Picturehouse.

‘Leaving is the reason that I’m haunted’. These words from The Ghosts in Our Machine trailer encapsulate the excruciating struggle that is recognizable to any activist who chooses documentation or exposure as their method of campaigning. Although ‘The Ghosts in Our Machine’ is primarily a documentary created to highlight important animal rights issues its most successful feat is illustrating the intense pain that is felt by anyone who tries to change something in the world and the audience is left feeling these pangs…

Jo-Anne McArthur, an award winning photojournalist, has been documenting the relationship between humans and non-human animals for over 10 years through her project ‘We Animals’. ‘The Ghosts in Our Machine’, directed by Canadian filmmaker Liz Marshall, follows Jo-Anne McArthur as she photographs and experiences the plight of animals in our society and tries to publicize her work.

Having been psyched up for an emotionally grueling ride through the deplorable realities of the use and abuse of animals across many industries, this documentary was a welcome surprise. The atmosphere throughout the documentary was majestic and peaceful as apposed to sickening and devastating. Jo-Anne’s photographs, which are taken at eye level with most of the animals, construct an emotional connection between these non-human animals and the audience. Jo-Anne outlines in the trailer that ‘We are all compassionate and if we’re given the opportunity to care, we will.’ This film is one of the many opportunities available to illustrate why we should care and what caring can change. The documentary is interspersed with footage of the wonderful moments Jo-Anne spends at a farm sanctuary with animals that are free to live peacefully without the fear of being killed or abused. The moments Jo-Anne spends here and the bond she exhibits with each individual animal is heart warming and inspirational.

However it is important not to make light of this film. In the trailer Jo-Anne states ‘I feel like I’m a war photographer’. This is justified in the revelation that she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the levels of abuse and mistreatment towards animals she has witnessed. This in itself should act as a sharp awakening for those who sometimes view animal rights advocates as fantasists or hippies. Jo-Anne is living proof of how politically and socially relevant this issue is.

The UK premier screening of The Ghosts in Our Machine was followed by a panel discussion with the Director Liz Marshall and representatives from VIVA, PETA and Animal Equality. The panel praised Liz for the inclusive approach the documentary takes. There is no blame directed towards particular organizations or groups in society. The title in itself The Ghosts in Our Machine beautifully highlights that these issues are a product of industries and learned habits across the world. More importantly, these are issues that need to be solved with the help of the whole population, across all industries, businesses and groups in society.

The Ghosts in Our Machine is essential viewing for any documentary addict and anyone interested in animal rights. However for those who have ever campaigned for something they believe in or who are curious about the hidden elements of our industrialized society this film is well worth a watch.

Watch the official trailer here:

Find out more at:

Check out Jo-Anne McArthur’s We Animals project here:

We Animals


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