The documentary I’ve chosen to look at is The Cube of Truth. It focuses on an animal rights activist couple from Auckland, and their involvement in a Cube of Truth – a public presentation of graphic images of animal slaughter practices.
Maybe it’s the cool slow motion shots, or maybe it’s the Kiwi accents, but something made me genuinely enjoy this short doc the first and subsequent times I watched it. Most of all, I love the straight forward nature of its message. It’s not, ‘this is a demonstration of all the reasons why veganism is great if you’d be kind enough to listen and maybe consider what I’m putting down’. It’s, ‘we’re vegan and we’re proud of it’. I seldom see any positivity in animal welfare videos, mostly criticism, but there’s ironically so much life in this video that that’s exactly the positive vibe I get, in spite of the cruel slaughter practices we’re shown. Rhetorical and expository documentary (Murray & Heumann, 2012) laced with vitality, as opposed to emotionally flat scientific studies or philosophical questions surrounding speciesism, is the breath of fresh air I didn’t know I needed. There’s no sense of static, only action. Paired with movement shots of the couple performing tricks on their unicycles, we’re told why they were called to action, and why they maintain their sense of conscience and justice through Cube of Truth. All of these factors are things I would want to explore in my own project. It’s difficult for me at present to state what exactly that project will entail, but if it’s any bit action-packed as The Cube of Truth, I’d be content.
The pace is quick, even for a micro doc. And yet, we’re still offered slow motion shots, still shots, etc. If I could describe the feeling I get from its pace, it’s like interval training. You exercise, your heart rate is up, and then you’re brought back down, and then restart. I think this is what keeps my focus most of all. I have an unusually low attention span, and yet, they could be talking about paint drying and I’d still be engaged with it. Perhaps an entirely slow or fast paced film is not the way to go for me. It’s the variety of rhythm that’ll keep an audience captivated.
I witnessed a Cube of Truth in Melbourne a while ago, on Bourke St right in front of the busy Myer I used to work at. I was coming back from my break when I saw the collection of screens being held up. At the time I was vegan, so watching the videos in equal parts disappointed me and failed at surprising me. But I realised that I share the same perspective as the people holding up the screens, as Chris and Sam from the documentary. The interviewees in The Cube of Truth are real people. They aren’t scientists or doctors placed on a pedestal we can’t identify with. They’re the kind of people you can see yourself as, not militant nor aggressive. Not angry or emotional. Just passionate enough to encourage others to see the truth for themselves.
These past couple of weeks I’ve been struggling to determine what I want to explore in my project. The most prevalent topic for me, as it is the root of most health, environmental, and economic problems in the world, is the production and consumption of animal products. But I’m hesitant, because I don’t leave my house with the intention of making people uncomfortable, or making them angry. How do I avoid offending people who have spent their whole lives believing their lifestyles have minimal impact on the world? I want people to see is that buying a steak is no longer just buying a steak. It’s killing the cow that wanted to live, supporting the farm and transport that release toxic gasses into the atmosphere and cut down forests for expansion, negatively impacting the health of mainly coloured communities and lower socio-economic classes that can only afford to live near these farms, contributing to global warming, and unknowingly consuming food with carcinogenic, cholesterol, casein properties.
I’m really invested in this project and it’s aim but I wonder if it’s too much. Should be more wary of offending people? But isn’t that one of the assets of documentary? To evoke feeling? When I’m looking for motivation to keep promoting veganism, I don’t watch animal slaughter videos. I seek more information. I read credible studies that support (and sometimes don’t support) this cause and come to my own conclusions. I analyse graphs and learn about health, cultural and religious reasons preventing veganism. I listen to podcasts and watch videos by the most patient, and well-informed animal rights activist I’ve ever seen or heard – Ed Winters (“Earthling Ed”). If my innate strive for information and truth, is anything like those of my audience, then I have chosen the right topic to explore.
Recently Ed Winter’s TEDx Talk came out, and once again, his words were powerful enough to strike an emotional chord within me. Hypocrisies of humanity can be corrected and our actions can align with our core beliefs regarding animal exploitation, if we go vegan.
“The Ostrich Effect is a cognitive bias where when confronted with information that is upsetting, potentially offensive or makes us challenge ourselves in a way that perhaps we don’t want to be challenged, we turn away. We hide from it. We pretend that it doesn’t exist. We bury our heads in the sand, hence the name, The Ostrich Effect.”
Loading Docs 2018, The Cube of Truth, Vimeo, 21 October, viewed Saturday 23 March 2019, <https://vimeo.com/296309451>.
Murray, R & Heumann, J 2012, ‘Contemporary eco-food films: The documentary tradition’, Studies in Documentary Film, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 43-59.
Winters, E. 2019, The Ostrich Effect: The truth we hide from ourselves, video, 28 March, TED, viewed Saturday 30 March 2019, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrVEYTSe-o8>.