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The Ghosts In Our Machine

Following animal photographer Jo-Anne McArthur over the course of a year, the film illuminates the lives of individual animals living within and rescued from the machine of our modern world.

A printer-friendly version of this page 92 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Liz Marshall
Produced by Nina Beveridge and Liz Marshall
Featuring Jo-Anne McArthur
Written by Liz Marshall
Edited by Roland Schlimme and Roderick Deogrades
Cinematography by John Price, Iris Ng, Nick de Pencier, Liz Marshall
Music Score by Bob Wiseman

"No words can capture the importance of Liz Marshall's film." Tom Regan, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, North Carolina State University
[Note: Community screenings of THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]

Note: There are two versions of this program on the same DVD: the original 92-minute theatrical version and a 60-minute classroom version. Also the filmmaker, Liz Marshall, is available to speak at screenings. If you would like to book her to speak at your screening, please email her at

With the exception of our companion animals and a few wild and stray species within our urban environments, we experience animals daily only as the food, clothing, animal-tested goods and entertainment we make of them. This moral dilemma is often hidden from our view.

This multi-award winning documentary gently removes our blinders by illuminating the lives of individual animals living within and rescued from the machine of our modern world. Through the heart and photographic lens of acclaimed photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, we become intimately familiar with a cast of non-human animals. The film follows Jo-Anne over the course of a year as she photographs animal stories in North America and in Europe. Each story is a window into global animal industries: Food, Fashion, Entertainment and Research. THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE charts McArthur's efforts to bring wider attention to a topic that most of humankind strives hard to avoid. Are non-human animals property to be owned and used, or are they sentient beings deserving of rights?

Grade Level: 8 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2014     Copyright Date: 2013
DVD ISBN: 1-56029-086-2

"This groundbreaking film is at once profoundly moving, utterly stilling, and one of the most educational exposés of how we use and abuse other animals as if their lives don't matter even to them, as if they're ghosts who really don't exist and whose lives are valued only if they can be useful to us. By portraying animals as individuals this film provokes us to move into a future that does not rely upon reprehensibly exploiting them for our own ends. We suffer the indignities to which we subject animals and when we treat them better it's a win-win situation for everyone."
Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Author, The Emotional Lives of Animals and Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation

"No words can capture the importance of Liz Marshall's film or the mix of sadness and inspiration it conveys. Jo-Anne McArthur is the film's main focus. Through her global photographic lens, she maps both the agony and the ecstasy of the plight of other animals, laboring tirelessly to catch them in the act of being who they are. "
Tom Regan, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, North Carolina State University, President of The Culture and Animals Foundation, Author of Empty Cages: Facing the Challenge of Animal Rights

"The Ghosts in Our Machine highlights the courageous work and affecting photographs of an intrepid advocate for other animals. This extraordinary documentary both reveals the personhood and beauty of other animals and exposes the profit-driven horrors inflicted upon them - by the billions. I highly recommend this important film for educators to supplement their discussions of the oppression of other animals."
David Nibert, Professor of Sociology, Wittenberg University, Author, Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism and Global Conflict

"I was pleasantly surprised by the soft touch of The Ghosts In Our Machine, having seen too many hard hitting documentaries about animal abuse. In an educational setting, this film presents a great opportunity to explore the existence of wrongs being inflicted upon animals by humans in a variety of settings. This is a powerful film for understanding the horrible conditions in which some animals are forced to exist - the filmmaking team's images reach immediately and deeply into your consciousness. The truth is revealed in the eyes of those caged."
David Favre, Professor of Property and Animal Law, Michigan State University, Author of Animal Law: Welfare, Interest, and Rights

"Ghosts in Our Machine is an innovative approach to the vexing problems of animal exploitation. It chronicles one young woman's journey as she tries to get her photographs of animal abuse published, and captures the heartbreak of public indifference. Although it does not shy away from very difficult images of tortured animals, the film invites the viewer to see these pictures and stories through the lens of the photographers struggle; this viewpoint renders this documentary less disturbing in many ways than other animal rights videos. As such, it may be more appropriate for high school and college classrooms than other materials."
Kathy Rudy, Professor of Women's Studies, Duke University, Author, Loving Animals: Toward a New Animal Advocacy

"McArthur's stark images speak louder than words...Arresting...An emotionally powerful film for mature audiences...for college age and adult viewers who are in a position to bring about positive change in animal use industries."
Faith Brynie, Science Books and Films

"Haunting exposé...The Ghosts in Our Machine shines a disturbing spotlight on the inhumane treatment of animals, revealing sad situations that are often hidden from any sort of regulation or investigation. Highly recommended."
F. Gardner, Video Librarian

"Photographer Jo-Anne McArthur has a mission: to expose the cruel treatment of animals, whether for human adornment, entertainment, or consumption...Undeniable moving...Would spark discussions in ethics and animal welfare issues."
Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, School Library Journal

"Incredible and forward looking film...The Ghosts In Our Machine invites us to reflect on the attitudes and norms of our so-called exceptional contemporary culture as we meet individual and named animal beings - cows, turkeys, dolphins, chimpanzees - whose pain, suffering, and death are a major part of why our species makes claims of superiority and domination over other animals...[This is] a very important move in the right direction."
Marc Bekoff, Psychology Today

"A multiple award-winning documentary about how humans use animals - sometimes with careless cruelty...Dark, thought-provoking, and challenging the common view of animals purely as property, The Ghosts In Our Machine is highly recommended."
The Midwest Book Review

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DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
Two versions of the film, 92 minutes and 60 minute classroom version, on the same DVD, plus SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.

Extensive Educational Guide prepared by the filmmaker
The film's outstanding website
The filmmaker's website
Host a community screening

Awards and Festivals
Top Ten Audience Favourite Award, Hot Docs Film Festival
Best Nature/Environment Golden Sheaf Award, Yorkton Film Festival
Compassion for Animals Award to Liz Marshall & Jo-Anne McArthur, Toronto Vegetarian Association
Special Jury Prize - International Competition, DMZ Docs
Best Canadian Feature, Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival
Green Screen Award, 2nd place, Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival
Top Twenty Audience Favourite Award, IDFA
Top Transformational Film, Viewers Choice, 2013
Oscow Homage, Mostra Animal Film Festival
DOXA Film Festival, Vancouver
Planete DOC Film Festival, Warsaw
DocPoint, Helsinki, Finland
DocPoint Tallin, Estonia
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
EcoFocus Film Festival, Athens, Georgia
Seattle Social Justice Film Festival

Animal Behavior/Communication
Animal Ethics
Animal Rights
Business Practices
Critical Animal Studies
Media Studies
Veterinary Science
Women and Gender

Related Titles

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New research into animal communication challenges our assumptions.

Baboon Tales
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Tools for Research
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Investigates the dangers to human health, including BSE (Mad Cow disease), posed by feedlot-raised beef.

On Nature's Terms
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... more Reviews

"A quieter, more reflective film than some of its predecessors...Ghosts takes an almost arthouse approach, resulting in a film that's more a meditation on suffering and the relationship between humans and other species, than an angry, didactic diatribe...It's a shockingly intimate sequence, and ultimately more powerful than a dozen shots of bloody pelts and butchered corpses."
Rebecca Hawkes, The Telegraph

"The Ghosts in Our Machine tell[s] a story that most students never hear...Delivers ample critique of the animal exploitation inherent in our everyday consumables and, as a bonus for a feminist class, also exalts women's activism and politically engaged career choices."
Maneesha Deckha, Films for the Feminist Classroom

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