Speciesism: The Movie: Film Review

Amateur doc is earnest but offers mostly what better films have already said.

A college student sets out to understand if it's ethically justifiable to use animals for meat and clothing.

Will future, more ethical humans look back at us the way we look back on slave owners or Nazis? That's the suggestion of Speciesism: The Movie, an earnest look at arguments about animal rights. The wholly amateurish doc offers much that has been explored more effectively elsewhere; though it makes a few fresh points as it gets into its second half, the presentation ensures it will mostly be seen by the already-converted in special bookings. A self-distributed DVD release may fare better.

Having started the film as a college student with a couple of friends -- none of whom even know how to white-balance their video camera -- Mark Devries enthusiastically makes himself the focus, clumsily acting out the intellectual journey of a regular Joe grappling with issues raised by PETA and others. Cutting frequently to shots of himself at a laptop, he pieces together interviews with a fair sampling of voices on the animal rights front, then goes on field trips to both factory farms and animal sanctuaries.

For an aspiring ethicist, Devries is pretty flexible with journalistic ethics: He lies to factory farmers, claiming he's out to prove the activists wrong by filming what he's sure will be humane conditions in their chicken coops; he lies to people who are politely telling him they don't want to be filmed. Beyond mistreating the Enemy in these Michael Moore-aping visits, he also lies to ordinary folks on the street, offering them "lobster" rolls that are actually vegan imitations.

No serious crimes here, and the young man's sincerity will elicit sympathy from many viewers even in scenes where the tone of epiphanic awe calls to mind 2 a.m. conversations in the freshman dorm. Presentation aside, Devries offers interviews with many people who think seriously about these issues and are more seasoned communicators than he is. They may not convince the viewer to go vegan, but -- assuming the viewer stays with the film long enough -- they may at least prompt a bit of soul searching about how we treat the world's non-human beings.

Production Company: Mark Devries Productions

Director-Screenwriter-Producer-Editor: Mark Devries

Directors of photography: Alanna Andrews, Mark Devries, Alex Melonas

Music: Stirling Krusing, Gabriel Scotto

No rating, 99 minutes