I attended a screening this weekend of Tribe of Heart's new and improved documentary on the animal agriculture industry called "Peaceable Kingdom." The film followed a loose narrative of three couples who were all in some way connected to farming: a 4th generation cattle rancher, a small goat farm, and a farm animal sanctuary. It was screened as part of the Environmental Film Festival at Yale and won the audience favorite award (and got my vote!).
From the film's website:
A riveting story of transformation and healing, PEACEABLE KINGDOM: THE JOURNEY HOME explores the awakening conscience of several people who grew up in traditional farming culture and who have now come to question the basic premises of their inherited way of life. Presented through a woven tapestry of memories, music, and breathtaking accounts of life-altering moments, the film provides insight into the farmers' sometimes amazing connections with the animals under their care, while also making clear the complex web of social, psychological and economic forces that have led them to their present dilemma.
The Q&A which followed with the director, producer and one of the farmers showed a surprising diversity of audience awareness, some of whom were newly enlightened by the information presented in the film. It was refreshing to hear. One young woman commented,
“I work with individuals with disabilities and strive to interact at all times with respect for their individual humanity. However I don’t extend that to the entire animal kingdom. This film finally challenged that disconnect. I’ve moved to a new consciousness again.”
By the informal conversations I witnessed outside the theater, I would say that she was not alone in her epiphany. The film was engaging, presenting compelling stories of everyday heroism without sounding preachy or inducing guilt. I was particularly happy with the scenes dismissing the myth of humane meat and the realities of "cage-free" chickens. Though it was at times difficult, and sad, to observe, the producers were careful not to sensationalize. These are common practices in the animal agriculture industry. Anyone who is a consumer of the end products should be aware of where their food comes from and how it got to their plate.
For now, the film is being screened at festivals across the United States. Future plans include a DVD release, and with luck, wider distribution at major movie theaters. Be sure to add it to your list of "Must See" films for 2010!