Last night the Animal Place interns and some other employees headed out to see the one night only showing of Unity the Film, a much hyped up film in the animal rights community that was supposed to attempt to show the intersection between the many different types of violence and oppression in the world. It was narrated by over 100 celebrities. We were all looking forward to it because its always great to see the various ways people try to spread the vegan message and try to encourage compassion for all.
The film was only showing one night in theaters all over, so after we got done with work at the sanctuary that day we all headed over to the theater.
The film opened on a scene of two cows waiting to be slaughtered. As one was prodded with an electrical rod behind a metal door the clang of the electric gun could be heard and the cows body could be glimpsed collapsing. The other cow tried desperately to turn around in the small metal chute and the fear was very apparent in their eyes. I, and everyone else in the theater knew there would be no escape for the poor baby. I started crying of course and couldn’t stop (still can’t) stop thinking about the poor cow throughout the film.
However within 15 minutes of the film I started getting a bad taste in my mouth and knew this film wasn’t living up to my expectations, but even worse seemed highly problematic.
A film called Unity about accepting differences was overwhelmingly narrated by rich white celebrities. There were very few people of color narrating it which seemed odd and in poor taste. When it discussed various armies and military history it would label scenes as “Armies of France” “Armies of Germany” etc. but then it simply labeled armies from various countries within Africa as “Armies of Africa.” Last time I checked Africa wasn’t a country and is very diverse. Not all armies in Africa are the same. When it talked about starving children it showed children in Africa even though there are starving children everywhere and that seems like a stereotype. When it addressed racism in the United States it was focused on Civil War and Civil rights eras which left the impression that it’s no longer a concern. When it talked about consumerism and smashing the “ego” it only showed black people wearing bling and Kanye West. Though the movie seemed to preach colorblind approach to issues, that totally ignores people’s cultural ties and individual backgrounds. Considering the filmmaker is a white man it seems like the idea is coming from a very privileged place, from someone who has never had to deal with racism and its systematic effects.
The film’s construction was poor, consisting of numerous stock footage scenes and historical clips. There was little to no original footage throughout the whole 90 minute film. The images flashed across the screen hardly letting viewers sit with a scene. Each time it switched to a new narrator their image and closed captions would show on the bottom of the screen. The photos of the celebrities was distracting from the content the film was presenting. I do respect the choice to include captioning to make the film more accessible. Some images were just cheesy and seemed out of place.
The health section of the movie seemed incredibly ableist and fat shaming. When it said that you don’t see animals in the wild wearing glasses, hearing aids, or toupees it was kind of like well duh? We don’t give them any of that technology. There are still animals in the wild with poor eyesight, baldness and poor hearing. That point seemed odd and it seemed like it was shaming people for their health and physical being. The health section included numerous footage from surgeries and medical procedures all pertaining to people being heavier or fat, but in a way that seemed to shame them again for their physical being and conflated that with eating meat. There are fat vegans and it seemed like that part ignored them and their role in this movement. There are also thin meat eaters.
The section of the film about love was extremely heteronormative, primarily showing straight couples. The only hint at LGBTQ+ relationship were in reference to marriage and a “proper” societal deemed relationship. Love was conflated with sex and romance instead of exploring the variety of other types of love and excluding asexual people.
Much of the script seemed like pseudo intellectual talk and even though the filmmaker said the topic was simple it seemed to overcomplicate it instead of just saying what it meant.
I wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone really because I thought it was poorly done and had a loose grip on some of the issues it was discussing. I don’t think it really presented any new ideas ( war is bad, we have to come together, overcome differences) and I thought it was less thought provoking than other documentaries.
The parts of the film that seemed well done were the parts including animals which makes me think the filmmaker should stick to animal rights (he also did earthlings). Overall I did not feel uplifted and found the film to be a bit disheartening, it may make a few people go vegan (which is great) but I think it was poorly informed or executed on other subject matter.