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VegParadise Media Reviews


DVD Written, Produced, and Directed by Shaun Monson

Nation Earth, 2005

Earthlings Shaun Monson has hung society's dirty laundry out on the line, and the sight isn't pretty. In fact, most people will turn their heads away or close their eyes to avoid many of the scenes in his gripping documentary Earthlings.

Monson has gathered 95 minutes of footage that indicts all of us for permitting the abominable treatment of animals that "live" among us. With many scenes captured by hidden cameras, the film chronicles the cruelty perpetrated by society in its quest for food, clothing, entertainment, and scientific research.

Viewers may find themselves queasy as they witness cows, pigs, and chickens slaughtered for eventual use on dinner tables. But before they are killed these creatures are castrated, debeaked, dehorned, branded, and pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. Viewers may also experience revulsion as the film traces the cruel history behind furs and leather.

What could be more entertaining than watching a bullfight where the bull is being lanced repeatedly until blood gushes from its body or to visit the circus and not realize that these animals are ripped from their natural habitats and brutally trained to become performers? The documentary also chronicles numerous gruesome scenes of animal torture that exist under the guise of "scientific research." The images of animals being sliced and diced in so-called experiments provide some of the goriest frames in the movie.

This project was a five-year journey for Monson who began the process when he made a series of public service announcements on spaying and neutering pets. As part of this effort he filmed at animal shelters in the Los Angeles/Long Beach communities. He soon turned to other aspects of animal issues, filming and gathering footage from other sources before he began his editing.

Moby The documentary is given a big boost with the efforts of Joaquin Phoenix and Moby. Phoenix, a committed vegan as well as a Golden Globe Award winner and Academy Award nominee, narrates while electronic music recording star Moby contributes 16 musical tracks, more than two-thirds of the film's score. Phoenix has shown his support of the film by appearing at the San Diego Film festival and autographing copies of the DVD. Moby, whose albums include "Animal Rights," is a well-known vegan and animal activist. When approached to provide music, he responded, "I will be honored to have my music in such a film."

Earthlings opens by defining an earthling as an inhabitant of the earth. "Since we all inhabit the earth, all of us are considered earthlings," says the narrator. All of us includes all species, not just man who overrules the interests of all other species and exploits them. The film attempts to lift public consciousness of the indignities, inhumane torture, and excruciating pain that these animals suffer.

Phoenix's narration adds dignity to the film by not being overly dramatic but quietly explaining what is occurring. Not once is he visually presented, nor are other humans. There are no interviews, just the damning footage of animal suffering. Moby's score does not distract from the powerful scenes but instead provides an effective background.

Earthlings is part one of a trilogy planned by Monson. It is not yet rated, and, hopefully, its graphic depiction of animal cruelty will not receive an R rating, putting it out of reach for many young people. The film was not easy for us to watch, but we realize that if more people witness these scenes, they will be encouraged to take an active role in demanding that other species be treated more humanely. Phoenix sums it up when he says, "Of all the films I have ever made, this is the one that gets people talking the most. For every person who sees Earthlings, they will tell three."

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