A film written, directed and produced by Maria Brenner
When Maria Brenner embarked on her student filmmaking project, she made an appeal to animal lovers and vegetarians for contributions to help defray the costs of her production. At the time, we sent her a modest check and soon forgot about the project.
Our memory was rekindled when we heard that Brenner received the 2004 Genesis Award for Best Student Film for Remembering Bob, a 14-minute motion picture she wrote, directed, and produced as a requirement for her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern California.
In the film she recreates the true story of Clifford, a young boy who grows up on a pig farm during the 1960's and forms a strong bond with a pig he calls Bob. Clifford faces the onerous task of shooting Bob when the pig reaches maturity and is destined for slaughter.
In his adult years he encounters another pig and is reminded of the unpleasant childhood incident. This second incident has a profound influence on his life.
The film's principal message is that it doesn't take courage to do what you're taught. The courage is doing something different. Like so many young people who reject the idea of eating animals for food, Clifford recognizes that even a pig is more than a slice of ham or a serving of pork chops. He realizes that a pig is no different than a companion animal like a dog or cat.
Clifford's story is a coming of age tale unlike some of the raunchy movies of this genre to emerge from Hollywood. His coming of age reflects a sensitivity that rejects killing animals for food. By spurning the urging of his peers to kill a pig, Clifford finds self-respect and gains the admiration of a young woman.
"I wanted to make this film to empower people to really examine the world around them and to think for themselves," says Brenner. "There are many behaviors in society that many of us accept blindly."
"This movie is about how we're taught as children to differentiate between the animals we kill as 'food' and the animals we pamper as 'pets.'"
For the filming Brenner went on location to West Virginia to capture the scenic beauty of where she herself lived before attending film school in California. Most of the cast and crew are from Morgantown, Clarksburg, and Parkersburg, West Virginia. Some scenes were filmed at the Oohmahnee Farm Animal Sanctuary in Hunker, Pennsylvania.
One of the leading players, Bob, the pig was adopted by the Oohmahnee Sanctuary at the completion of the filming and will be there permanently. Bob will never be slaughtered for meat. Also never making their appearance on the dinner table are Solomon, the grown-up Bob, and Spot, the other black pig in the film. Solomon has joined Bob at Oohmahnee, and Spot lives with a loving family.
Brenner proudly announced that all of the food served on the film set during the 10-day shooting was vegan, including what appeared to be ham and milk. The cast and crew ate heartily from food donated by vegan food manufacturers.
In Remembering Bob, Maria Brenner has produced a sensitive film that is apropos for all ages. She has more character development in this almost one-quarter hour film than many mindless Hollywood movies have in two hours. The viewer senses that Clifford is a real person struggling with an ethical dilemma that people around him are ignoring. He makes no pronouncements about animal rights, but his actions clearly convey the theme of the film.
In the credits for the film Brenner gratefully acknowledged all those who contributed physically and financially. We were quite surprised to read our names in the credits.
The film was originally shot in Super16mm film and is now available in VHS videocassette and DVD formats. The VHS can be purchased for $10, and the DVD carries a price tag of $15. Both can be ordered by contacting Brenner at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hopefully, this film will reach a mass audience by achieving wider distribution. Perhaps, its appreciative and supportive viewers can promote its presence in schools and libraries around the country. Meanwhile, we enthusiastically give it a G rating--G for Great!