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The Culture Column: Unity

This documentary film was shown for a Veggie and Vegan Society’s Movie Night! Due to this context, it will come as little surprise that the film did refer to animal welfare as well as many wider issues such as war, diet and love. However it doesn’t stop there: if you’re a human, an animal or even a tree- this film is for you!

I would first of all like to applaud one of the most powerful and empathetic starts to a film that I have witnessed in a long time; on par with perhaps the distressing and traumatic opening to Castaway, the heart-breaking beginning to Up or the iconic start to The Lion King (my sincere apologies for the Disney movie bias- I am a fan). Shaun Monson, director, used a powerful contrast of realistic footage and sorrowful empathy, focusing on the distressed actions of one single animal for an extended period of time (around 2-3 intense minutes). After bringing a tear, or a flood, to my eyes (and face and hands and sleeve...) the film then took a transcendent and perhaps slightly drawn-out turn. The viewer was bombarded with stars, galaxies and other such colourful images that, I must confess, meant little to me due to my lack of astrological understanding. My only criticism is regarding the convoluted discussion of the Universe and Earth’s place within it. I would argue that although at first interesting, the astrological focus did feel repetitive over time and began to bore me- causing temporary detachment and loss of interest.


However my perseverance was rewarded! I was surprised at the shift that occurred: the style of narration altered to introduce a broad accessibility to the content. Never did I think that I would be able to understand the theories of famous philosophers such as Nietzsche (the gentleman below rocking the moustache) within a space of 30 seconds. However, I sat feeling like a mastermind, with the help of the narrators, who reworded complex ideas into a summative and simple forms. So do not be deterred, dear reader, be encouraged! You’re not going to sit staring blankly at the screen for an hour and a half: quite the opposite! You will add to your already brimming bank of knowledge with content such as the theory of the Ego- that is, the theory that selfishness causes a distance and duality among humanity- pretty simple right?


The documentary film was also well-organised and fluid. It used well-chosen and diverse footage to portray points excellently. For example, to portray the issue of apathy, caged cats and dogs were shown. These animals were in cramped cages in China, thrown from the back of trucks by people, as though there was no life inside. This footage really touched me and hit close to home: how desensitised have we become as a race? Also, before this example leads you to believe that it is in only Eastern or less economically developed countries where this apathy and cruelty resides- think again! Animal testing, corruption and war are issues very prevalent in most societies, including (if not especially) Western.


Speaking of war (the film looks at this too- slightly morbid I know) but relevant! I was taken aback with the fact that mankind has been at war for 95% of its existence. I didn’t know this before watching and so found it pretty shocking. I was also surprised at myself, for my lack of reaction towards footage shown of widespread riots and images of war. Now, I’m pretty sure that this isn’t a result of my lack of emotion as I have been known to cry at the children’s film Barnyard, the 2012 John Lewis advert and when I don’t have enough money for a takeaway. I believe instead, that I was probably just so overwhelmed by the amount of pain and the whirlwind of emotions existing in the images that no single emotion could get through. Looking for a second opinion? The President of the Veggie and Vegan Society, Isabella Trapani argues that, “It makes you aware how cruel humans can be to each other, especially when looking at all the wars of human history”. But hey! It’s not all Peace, Love and Animal Welfare so you can put your shoes back on and put away the tie-dye- unless you’re comfy- in that case stay as you are!


The film also covers issues relevant to everyone regardless of belief, such as diet, nutrition and health. Regarding this issue, Isabella ‘liked that it also addressed unhealthy diets and the consequences that can result. It conveyed the vegan message in a subtle way, which was a more welcoming approach to non-vegans, who may not consider the effects of their dietary habits’. The movie also discussed a topic that has transfixed mankind for centuries- love! This idea is EVERYWHERE- in almost every film, song, poem- all you need is love! Unity gives an insightful and honest insight into what love is- helpful for everyone with a relationship to anyone or anything- be it sister, boyfriend, cousin, dad, Fido the pooch or a pet rock- the film is quite inspiring in that respect.

I would most definitely recommend Unity as it has a little, or a lot, of something for everyone to take away from it. As the Society President states, ‘It conveys a message in a very powerful way’ and I have to agree. The simplistic strategy of voiced-over footage helped to portray the purpose of the film- to enlighten, educate and allow us to ask some pretty big and important questions about the world we live in; instead of trying to distract us with bright lights and special effects. So get your thinking cap and suitable for veggie snacks, gather your friends and be prepared to open your mind!

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