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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Shea Lynch at 2:22PM   |  7 comments
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home

Blog posting written by Shea Lynch, Documentary Studies '14, FLEFF Intern, Glens Falls, New York

FLEFF Week documentary Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, directed by Jenny Stein, is a great incite into the awakening from a culture of farming families and the amazing connections with animals. 

I interviewed producer James LaVeck.


Why does Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home matter? What makes this movie special?

This film shares a important story that has never been told before, one that has the ramifications for all our lives as well as those of billions of animals. In farm communities all over the world, there are young people who experience conflict over using and taking the lives of animals that they have cared for and nurtured.
For some, this conflict is scarring and becomes a life long trauma, especially for those who have a gift for connecting with animals. There are also animal farmers who, after years of running a farm, come to question the idea that animals are here just to be a means to an end, and who begin to search for a new way to relate to the animals under their care.
By bringing our audience along on the journey of these farmers, we invite them to ponder the same questions and dilemmas the farmers and animal rescuers in the film are grappling with. The ethics of the human-animal relationship are being heavily discussed and debated in our culture right now, and too often, treatments of this subject are so politicized that no little real dialogue happens.

We sought to make a film that went deeper than politics, into personal ethics, conscience, and most of all, the universal human experience of realizing that our actions are having a profound impact on others, an impact we often don't fully realize. Equally profound is our potential to accept the challenge of doing what it takes to make things right, which turns out to be one of the more fulfilling aspects of the human experience. Both individually and collectively, we have an amazing ability to respond to injustice with creativity and nonviolence.  

What separates this film from other FLEFF Week film events?

I know how much effort went into programming this film festival, so I think all the films and special events are going to be great. One thing that makes Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home unique at FLEFF is that it is a documentary made by Ithaca filmmakers. One of the subjects, Harold Brown, who will also be attending the screening, is also local. Harold's story is all about healing deep pain and finding the courage to follow your heart.

We'll be having a Q&A after the film, as well as a reception at Delilah's, so there will be an opportunity for us all to interact with the audience. Screenings of this film tend to inspire a paradigm shift, which naturally creates a feeling of community amongst those who have shared the experience. We're excited to share this life-affirming experience with the people of our home town. 

The theme of FLEFF this year is Checkpoints, ideas coming together. How do the themes in Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home represent the FLEFF theme?

On the FLEFF website, it says, "Checkpoints mark environmental turning points." We believe that our society’s relationship to animals is at a turning point.

Despite the fact that more and more of us are realizing that other animals have emotional lives and deep familial bonds far deeper than was once imagined, their use and abuse has never been more widespread. By the end of this century, human activities are projected to wipe out more than half the species now on our planet. Will we continue to view the other beings who share our world as a "resource" to be exploited, or will we recognize that animals, however they may differ from us, are each individuals who have inherent dignity and worth above and beyond their utility to humans?

That question, in my opinion, is one of the most pressing of this century. We invite our audience to grapple with this question and consider the journey of conscience undertaken by seven people whose relationship to other animals goes through a remarkable evolution over the course of the film. 

What are some difficulties you faced making this film?

This is a film that tells the individual stories of both people and animals, and in both cases, we wanted it to be authentic and powerfully engaging. In the case of the human subjects, former farmers and animal rescuers, this meant creating an environment in which these courageous people would be able to open up and share some of the most difficult and inspiring moments of their lives. We took the time to build that special level of trust, and each person in the film more than met us halfway. We are so honored to have had this chance to work with people who represent what’s best about the human spirit. 

When it came to the animals we were working with, our challenge was to help the audience get to know them as individuals, to look beyond the stereotypes most of us learn from childhood, which are often derogatory and do not at all reflect their natures -- pigs are filthy, chickens are "bird brains”, cows are walking milk machines, sheep mindlessly follow. These ideas, which are deep-seated in our culture, are easily seen as false by anyone who has the chance to spend time with these animals in an environment where they are allowed to express their true natures. In Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, we allow our audience to see this see remarkable truth for themselves. The film features some truly amazing animal rescue footage in which the individuality of the animals comes through so vividly, which is also evident in the footage we shot documenting the day to day lives of animals at sanctuaries. Many people remark that viewing this film has given them a whole new relationship to other animals, one they find that is full of new possibilities.

What do you want the audience to get out of this documentary?

A viewing experience that is memorable, inspiring, and hopefully even life-changing. Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home has won several film festival audience awards, and this is particularly meaningful for us because this film challenges many audience members to re-examine some of their ideas about farmers, farm animals and farm life. Audiences like the film I think because the film subjects -- both people and animals -- are fascinating individuals who are easy to relate to, and the story they have to share is both emotionally compelling and thought-provoking. 
We're looking forward to a great screening at FLEFF!
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home will be screened on April 14 (7:00PM)  at Cinemapolis! ONLY ONE SHOW! BE THERE!!






This definitely sounds like an inspirational film that I'd love to check out. James LaVeck's interview really captured why it fits into the Checkpoints theme of FLEFF this year. I never really think about our relationship to animals, but I'd really like to view this film and get a new perspective on what James LaVeck and director Jenny Stein are trying to convey.

As an animal lover and documentary nut I'm am definitely looking forward to the showing of Peaceable Kingdom. I also think that it is neat how one of the local Ithaca subjects of the film will be part of the discussion afterwards!

I will see you all there. Its going to be a great show!

I love the idea that this film challenges some of the deepest rooted stereotypes that we have about animals. From what I can tell, this is the kind of film that is going to produce many vegetarians. I can already think of many friends I plan on personally inviting to this film because their either need to see something like this or they will be glad a film has been made about this topic. I just enjoy any film that challenges stereotypes that are taken for granted so often. I also love that it was made by locals : )

James LaVeck and Jenny Stein do live in Ithaca (in my neighborhood, actually!). And it is wonderful that FLEFF has the privelege to launch the NYS premiere of this important film. But just to add to the dialogue, they are anything but local filmmakers---their films have been programmed around the country, and they enjoy national reputations as environmental filmmakers. Who just happen to live in Ithaca! Don't miss the screening, everyone reading this blog, as it is going to be quite powerful. The film is exquisitely shot.

Shea: Thanks for the interview and for helping us get the word out about this screening. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Jackie: We love to share our work with people like you who are open-minded and interested in exploring new perspectives. As documentary filmmakers exploring the cutting edge of an emerging issue, we seek footage and powerful life experiences that many people have never been exposed to. The human-animal relationship is complex, and connected to so many aspects of our lives. It provides a great context for examining environmental and ethical issues that desperately need attention something that FLEFF does so well.

Kelsey: I hope you'll find this event an exciting example of how art can be combined with personal transformation and social change. Harold Brown, the film subject who will be joining us at the event, has an unforgettable story to share about facing the truth, overcoming a painful past and finding the courage to follow his heart. One of my favorite things about making documentaries is learning from the film subjects and seeing how much meeting them means to audience members.

Karlita: Our prejudices -- conscious or subconscious are not only hurtful to others, but also rob us from having a much richer relationship with them. I've spent a good part of my life trying to recognize and overcome my own prejudices, and in making this film, that has included not just my prejudices about other human beings, but also about other species. I'm constantly striving to see the individual behind the exterior. Making an honest effort to be respectful often leads to trust, and that opens the door to amazing experiences.

Patty: Many Ithaca artists, who are also activists, have been our role models. We're honored to be a part of that local tradition, and also part of the FLEFF tradition, this being our third film shown at the festival. Im personally really happy about the involvement of Ithaca College students. Several years ago, I used to teach Tae Kwan Do on campus, and developed a great connection with my students. When I left Ithaca for LA to join my partner Jenny in a screenwriting venture, they gave me an IC pullover that was a prized possession for many years.

I will make sure I introduce myself at some point through the night Mr. LaVeck

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