Posts Tagged ‘film’

The Superior Human

Samuel McAnallen’s new film,The Superior Human? is the latest to question long-standing humanistic beliefs about humanity’s role on this planet, and mankind’s relationship with the other beings that it shares said planet with.

Whilst I am deeply sceptical of the humanist doctrine as it stands (despite being an atheist myself), my issues lie at the core beliefs that truth and reason are all-solving, all-powerful forces (for those interested, John Gray has written a fantastic book entitled Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals on this very issue).The Superior Human? attacks humanism on speciesist grounds.

It analyses (at times, in great lengths) the 18 most prominent reasons why humanity is viewed by humans as being the highest form of life on Earth. It attacks each of these points head on, starting at number 18 (having a large population) and working through to number 1 (having consciousness and autonomy). In the journey, it tackles issues such as the human ability to create art, the use of tools, and culture.

Chester the prejudiced bear believes that bears are the superior species

Frequently, the film will draw similarities from the animal kingdom, showing that we are not unique in our abilities. One particularly fascinating piece explains the intricacies of the prairie dog language system, which is a complex verbal structure. Allegedly, a prairie dog can tell others verbally that someone is walking by, their clothing, their size, their speed, and what they are carrying.

It is one thing to show superior or equal traits in other animals. The film really shines, however, when it bluntly explains where humanity has failed. Illustrating humanity’s destruction of the Earth, it’s grand and frequent massacres of its own species, and analysing our false cultural worship of material goods are just a few occasions where the film does exactly this.

Somehow, despite all this, the film manages to retain an upbeat and humorous tone. Dr Nick Gylaw’s narration is witty and amusingly sarcastic. Towards the end of the film, we are introduced to Chester the prejudiced bear, who believes that bears are the highest species on Earth. This further illustrates the failures of speciesism whilst providing a few chuckles.

The film has some fantastic footage. Ranging from beautiful, to funny, to enlightening, the footage thankfully never bores which is fortunate for a documentary made on a miniscule budget.

The film is, as mentioned, directed by Samuel McAnallen and is produced by Dr Jenia Meng. Narration is by Dr Nick Gylaw, and there are interviews and footage from Gary Yourofsky, Dr Bernard Rollin, Dr Richard Ryder, and Dr Steven Best. The film is free to watch below, and I recommend doing so! Let me know what you think.

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Forks Over Knives

The latest film to be creating a stir in the vegan world is Forks Over Knives. However, it is unusual in that, unlike other vegan movie hits such as Earthlings, Forks Over Knives barely even touches on animal abuse and the environment, or the corrupt meat industry. Instead it focuses on an aspect of veganism that is often forgotten, or that at least falls by the wayside: personal health.

Whilst you can find pages and pages online about vegan health, and books about the subject (indeed, the raw vegan movement is almost entirely about health), I have not yet seen a film on the matter, and Forks Over Knives appears to be holding nothing back. Its production seems to be excellent, and it is well sourced as it features interviews with a large variety of people from health experts such as Dr T. Colin Campbell, vegan athletes including Mac Danzig, and people who were afflicted with life-threatening illnesses who have made miraculous recoveries on a vegan diet such as Ruth Heidrich, a cancer survivor and triathlon athlete.

The film is based on Dr Campbell’s work The China Study. It examines the current Western diet, which, despite all its theoretical health plans (such as the low-carb Atkin’s Diet) and talk of conscious and healthy eating, remains to be the most unhealthy diet in the world. Despite the Western medical technology soaring above that of other areas, we continue to be the sickest people on Earth.

Taken from the Forks Over Knives synopsis: “Two out of every three of us are overweight. Cases of diabetes are exploding, especially amongst our younger population. About half of us are taking at least one prescription drug. Major medical operations have become routine, helping to drive health care costs to astronomical levels. Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death, even though billions are spent each year to “battle” these very conditions. Millions suffer from a host of other degenerative diseases.”

Dr T. Colin Campbell

Now, whether or not these statistics are accurate, there is undoubtedly a vast amount of truth in what is said in this film. The China Study itself was written when the discovery was made that the wealthier Chinese children (who were living off of a diet which was high in meat and animal products) were discovered to be developing various cancers and diabetes at rates far beyond their impoverished counterparts (who rarely consumed animal products).

Whilst it’s perhaps fairly easy to look at these discoveries and think “well, that’s obvious…” it’s nonetheless great to have these ideas illustrated in a film and reiterated by doctors who are nutritional experts, and have studied nutritional health for their whole lives. Also, I often find myself getting so caught up in the issues surrounding veganism to do with animal rights and the environment that I forget about the benefit veganism is having on my body. This film looks like an excellent way to remind yourself of that, and whilst the other issues are about combatting negatives by following veganism, this should remind you of the positive thing that you’re bringing into your life.

Also, I thought Forks Over Knives was a pretty cool name, once I finally understood it (it’s knives as in scalpels… y’know, which they cut you open with when you’re having heart surgery from eating too much fatty stuff… clever, huh?)

You can read more about Forks Over Knives on the movie’s official website, and it was released a few days ago in the US. I’m unsure when it may become available elsewhere, so if you’re in the UK (like me) then you may have to wait a while. Here’s the trailer to keep you occupied until then though:

James Cromwell and ‘Farm to Fridge’

Throughout my life I’ve met at least three vegetarians who attribute their change from an omnivore diet to a vegetarian one to a single film – Babe. Yes, the film about the pig. One of those people is our very own wrosie, actually! I always find it kind of charming when someone goes vegetarian due to Babe, probably because all of the people I can think of who made the switch did so of their own accord whilst they were still children. I have one friend who immediately went vegetarian when he asked his dad “where’s Babe’s mum going, Dad?” in the scene where Babe’s mother is transported off to the meat processing plant. His dad replied “to make your McDonald’s burgers” and at that point he stopped eating meat at the age of 8.

One of the heroes of Babe though is Farmer Hoggett, played by James Cromwell. He is probably one of my favourite actors, and not because he’s necessarily of the calibre of the likes of De Niro, or because he’s in a variety of classic films (in fact, I can’t really think of that many films or series he has been in), but because he’s just one of those nostalgic faces which remind me of being young. But what makes him cooler is that Babe actually changed his eating habits too, from vegetarian to vegan.

Recently James has lent his calming voice to a new short film by Mercy For Animals called Farm to Fridge (see below). He is the narrator for the 12 minutes of footage, but sadly his soothing voice cannot overcome the distressing footage shown. The film is a short summary of some of the vile processes that go on behind closed doors in the meat industry. The film is enlightening for those who perhaps haven’t seen this kind of stuff before, and is one of the most informative of these kinds of videos, but just to warn you it is also very distressing.

(As a quick sidenote: please view wrosie’s post on the recent laws being discussed around filming in slaughterhouses which could prevent informative footage like this from ever seeing the light of day.)

Whilst this video is disturbing, it displays routine practices in the meat and dairy industries. Try to share this footage around, as this kind of film presents an image of an industry that I’m sure most people wouldn’t want to support.

James Cromwell’s involvement in the film came about through his association with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). He was recently interviewed about his participation by Ecorazzi, stating that his involvement was due to the fact that when he saw the footage it made him want to “tear somebody’s eyes out” but he settled for narrating the film instead. Probably the wiser choice in the long run, James.

He was also asked about what his number one green tip is, to which he replied “Go vegan. If you love animals, don’t eat them!” What a dude, now why can’t we get a decent sequel to Babe?

Vegucated

This morning I came across a pretty interesting premise for a documentary. The film is called Vegucated, and the premise is simple: take 3 New Yorkers who live on a diet of meat and cheese, and put them on the vegan path for 6 weeks. From the looks of the trailer (see the bottom of this post), the three of them are given a decent helping hand in terms of learning the ropes with stuff like staple foods and ethical considerations. It seems like the 6 weeks turn out to be a life changing experience, and the film focuses quite effectively on the major obstacle in the way of the growth of vegetarianism and veganism: ignorance.

The film is premiering this Spring, and whilst I wouldn’t expect a wide-release of any sort, I look forward to seeing the full thing whenever I get the chance. Props to the three volunteers who took part in the experiment as well, whether or not they stayed vegan by the end of it (guess we’ll find out when the film is released). I believe that trying out a vegan diet and understanding it is one of the most important steps that anyone can take, and there’s no denying that the transition can be hard at times.

Look out for Vegucated when it’s released in Spring, and stay tuned to Vegangstaz where I’ll be detailing a similar challenge for the veggie-curious in the near future!

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