vegansaurus!

10/19/2011

Vegucated premieres in NYC! Everyone loves it! You must see it!  »


Last week I attended the U.S. premiere of the Toronto Film Festival Best Documentary winner, Vegucated. Hilarious, heartwarming, and with a spot-on message, this film is brilliant. [Ed.: We agree!]


After seven years of work, Marisa Miller Wolfson has triumphed as a filmmaker. Her documentary shows the journey of three volunteers who go from entirely traditional (roughly, Standard American) diet, and zero experience with vegetarianism, to a completely vegan lifestyle for six weeks. 

Vegucated entertainingly captures all the obstacles, thrills, confusion, guilt, joy, passion, and frustration that we experience once our eyes have been opened to the truth of animal exploitation. Our hero’s tales are intercut with artfully placed and deliberately chosen images of slaughterhouses and factory farms. 

These images are incredibly effective. Vegucated is not hard to watch, although there are hard moments, but the selective use and poignant placement of such footage makes it even more powerful. Whenever the images get too intense you are whisked back to the compelling test subjects and their delightful adventures.

When the credits rolled the audience leaped to its feet in a standing ovation for this wonderful movie. A brief Q&A with the cast afterwards revealed that two of the test subjects are currently vegan and the third is vegetarian. Amazing. A show of hands revealed the audience was primarily vegan, with about 20 declared omnivores. Obviously, I was specifically interested in an omnivore’s reaction, so I found one at the after party and pressed him with questions.

I was not supposed to be at the fancy after party, as I did not have a VIP ticket (‘cause I’m poor). However, Brian, one of the stars of the documentary (who is even more charming and adorable in person than in the film, if that’s possible) saw me wistfully gazing at the party filled with vegan food/celebs and offered get me in as his plus-one. As if I weren’t already in love with him. [Ed.: OMG YOU HAVE TO GET MARRIED!]

JACKPOT. I hobnobbed with the vegan elite and noshed on Foodswings' mac and cheese. There were also veggies, hummus, cookies, So Delicious ice cream treats (So Delicious is sponsoring the film, because they ROCK) and most importantly, Sweet & Sara Rice Krispie treats, which I repeatedly dunked in the chocolate fountain. That's right, you heard me: THE CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN.


I digress. My omnivore, a good friend of the Vegucated test subject Brian (my future husband), said he had come to support his friend. He currently eats a totally SAD and had never looked into anything regarding veganism or vegetarianism before. He told me the film had shocked him, and that he was unaware of most of the information presented. He said that it had never occurred to him to think what these farms and slaughterhouses must be like. It truly seemed to have affected him in a positive way. As a vegan, I thought it was great and it touched my heart, but to see that a non-vegan audience member thoroughly enjoyed it as well was inspiring. 

This is what I hope it can do for many more non-vegans. It is so funny and stimulating, it will captivate any audience. The humor can be a bridge for people who would never have approached a film like this otherwise. 

Last night’s show was the first in a tour, so check out the website to see if it’s coming near you—if it is, GO SEE IT. It is radical. You can also pre-order copies of the DVD or arrange to host a screening in your town. [Ed.: Oct. 24 in Berkeley and 25 in SF!]

This movie is awesome. Watch it. Send it to all your family members as Christmas presents. (or Hanukkah or birthday or whatever presents). I loved it and extend my congratulations to all involved.

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight and writes for US Weekly’s Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz and read about her animal-friendly adventures here.

03/31/2010

Movie Review: The Animals Film-–the vegan documentary I’ve been looking for!   »

I realized 30 seconds into The Animals Film that this was the “vegan documentary” I’d sought ever since we came up with the idea of “vegan movie reviews” a few months back. Investigative documentaries like Food, Inc. were informative but left me cold. Likewise, I thought Meat was a masterpiece, but it deals solely with the issue of meat production. None of them took a global view of the relationship between humans and other species. Turns out the movie I kept waiting for someone to make came out nearly 30 years ago. 

From what I can tell, The Animals Film caused quite a stir in its native England upon release, mostly due to a unique opportunity to be aired on the then-fledgling Channel 4. The movie apparently also had a large impact in the Swedish Parliament, which revised a lot of its policies regarding animals following a screening of the film. The controversy is hardly surprising: the film opens with historical footage of animals being abused, molested, exploited for entertainment, brutalized, pulverized, electrocuted,* and generally destroyed by humans. As if that wasn’t enough, The Animals Film sets this sequence to the Talking Heads’ “Mind,” with its increasingly desperate plea for “something to change your mind,” extremely effectively. I thought this sequence was so moving—similar to what I imagine Errol Morris would do with the topic—that I watched it multiple times. The Animals Film continues on to critically examine the exploitation of animals by humans, be it in the form of meat production, hunting, entertainment, laboratory testing, or (the one that made me shudder the most) military testing.  

The Animals Film makes a very important point that I actually feel is often lost among the animal rights/vegan discourse. I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I’m vegan, given that I’m not really an “animal person.” I’d point to the inevitable health and environmental reasons, but there was always another reason that I couldn’t fully express. Movies like The Animals Film and Au hasard Balthazar helped me explain—it’s the human reason. When humans inflict suffering on other sentient species, what does that say about us? The film’s tagline, “It’s not about them, it’s about us,” says it all. The U.S. government tied up animals on boats during the Operation Crossroads nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll, just to “test” the effects of atomic bombs on biological creatures? After the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Really? Let me go ahead and give you the results of that test: NOT GOOD. How do we expect to eradicate human suffering when our way of life is so needlessly bound up in inflicting suffering? To those of you thinking, “but we have developed so many medicines because of animal testing,” The Animals Film makes an excellent point—penicillin kills guinea pigs! Fortunately Fleming and Florey never tested it on guinea pigs, or we may have never tried it on humans! Also, side note—why test LSD on monkeys? 

This is how I logically found my way to veganism without being an animal-lover. I grew tired of lying to myself about what needlessly killing animals for food told me about me. Not to sound totally pretentious and condescending (or, for that matter, like a damn hippie), but in my mind, learning to honestly treat other species with respect is the next logical step toward ensuring equality among humans. 

Seriously, I consider The Animals Film mandatory viewing for not only vegans, animal-lovers and the like, but for everyone. If I ever have the opportunity to teach that hypothetical “Animals in Film” syllabus knocking around in my head, The Animals Film would be the first movie I’d show. Actually, maybe it would be the last. I’m not sure what else I’d need to screen after this one.  

*Seriously, Edison? You filmed yourself electrocuting an elephant? Electricity has to annoy me now?

When he’s not slowly burning out his projector bulb, Zach Cincotta is an entertainment and business attorney representing awesome bands, record labels, and other small businesses. His previous movie reviews for Vegansaurus can be found here, you can contact him here, and follow him on Twitter here.

12/08/2009

Movie review: The Future of Food  »

About 10 minutes into The Future of Food I decided I would never eat food ever again. Never. Ever. Seriously, starving to death actually seemed like a better idea! At least if I starved, I wouldn’t grow a third arm or leg or ass cheek as a result of eating pesticide-covered food!

All right, so I’ve been vegan for right at a year now. Seriously, best decision I’ve ever made. Being a movie obsessive, I watched The Future of Food on Hulu* because, well, it was about food, and I’m fascinated by food and our food policies. I also heard that The Future of Food mines a lot of the same material as the more recently released Food, Inc., but without the head-scratchingly ridiculous hypocrisy inherent in the latter movie’s stance on animals. Sorry dude, ripping on the food industry’s treatment of cows and chickens only to lionize a farmer who “ethically” slits open a chicken’s throat onscreen doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot sense to me. Wisely, The Future of Food sticks to vegetable production.

Director Mrs. Jerry Garcia (no, really, she’s Garcia’s widow) spends the bulk of the movie shedding light on the use of pesticides in crop production; seed patenting and the resulting lawsuits; the disturbing, God-like science behind GMO foods; the need for labeling GMO foods; the messed up U.S. policy and regulation surrounding GMO foods and resulting global fall out from those policies; the plight of American farmers; and the food industry’s dominance of allegedly independent academic research.

Whew. Solid. No doubt. I’m guessing many of you are equally concered with some if not all of the issues raised in this movie.

The problem is that—aside from the fact that Garcia presents everything with all the subtlety of an 1880s fire-and-brimstone preacher delivering his sermon to the choir—The Future of Food's breadth was also its undoing for me. Watching this movie is kinda like going to a protest action. It's always the same thing—a wide coalition of progressives who, no doubt with their hearts in the right place, can't seem to focus. Legalize marijuana. Ecological policy reform. Free Mumia Abu-Jubal and Leonard Peltier. Down with capitalism. In theory, I agree with each of these concepts, but, dude, I thought I was attending an antiwar protest. It may seem harmless, and we should of course laud diversity and inclusiveness of opinions. But the problem is that any single message is diluted under the weight of all of them. In the aggregate, the messages become a lot of static in the background of the life of the average person and easy for the haters to marginalize the message: “Just those crazy progressives at it again.”

Focus, people! I can just hear my high school English teacher telling me to pick a theme and go with it. It takes Garcia about 80 of the movie’s 88 minutes to come upon what I think is her message: we should all eat organic food grown and raised locally. While I don’t really understand how this message is a solution to some of the concerns she lays out, particularly the issue of Monsanto patenting all of the available seeds, hey, it’s hard to disagree with her—if, in fact, organic farms are commercially viable and sustainable, a fact presented as a given in this film. Of course, I’m still too scared to eat anything ever again, so none of this particularly matters.

And dammit, don’t get me started on the treacly final line of this movie. “It’s up to you”? What? Shut the hell up, hippie lady. Pssst… the next generation is fairly jaded when it comes to overblown melodrama like this. How is it that you’ve made me, someone who ostensibly agrees with your entire message, hate your movie with one line? Ugh. Seriously, I can’t be the only one who winces at schmaltz like this, right?

Oh well. I know it’s not what Garcia was going for, but I’m still waiting for someone with a sense of humor to make the truly great pro-vegan documentary. Is I’m Vegan going to cut it, or do we need more firepower? What’s next on your plate, Michael Moore? Hey Jonathan Safran Foer, you busy? Wanna go to film school?


*I loved that my viewing of this film was brought to me with limited commercial interruption by Dole.

Zach Cincotta is a vegan movie obsessive who, along with his vegan brother, discusses his thoughts on every movie he watches at Le Souvenir d’un avenir. When he’s not slowly burning out his projector bulb, Zach is an entertainment and business attorney representing awesome bands, record labels and other small businesses. You can contact him here, and follow him on Twitter here.

12/02/2009

Fishy Business  »

Somehow, pescatarians always seemed innocuous to me. Someone telling me “Oh, I’m a vegetarian, but I eat fish,” didn’t really bother me. I had this false sense that our terrestrial friends always got the worst of it, and then I saw this video.

Fishy Business is an amazing (and short, only 15 minutes) documentary on the horrible practice of drift-netting that, although banned internationally, is still practiced by at least 500 boats in the Mediterranean area. The one case that struck me especially was a drift net that caught a family of five endangered whales (something like 100 in existence??). Luckily they were saved, but seeing as 90 percent of all of the catch produced by the net is unwanted, a whole lot of dead marine life get tossed back into the ocean just so places like Delmonico’s can stay in business. No thanks.

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