Open your eyes. Trust your heart. Take the journey.
This is the invitation proffered by the makers of the documentary film Peaceable Kingdom: the Journey Home. It tells the stories of several people from traditional farming backgrounds who face a powerful struggle of conscience as they come to question the basic assumptions about their way of life. On March 13th, we showed Peaceable Kingdom at the historic Rio Theatre as part of our Eyes Wide Open free film screening series, and 170 people came to take the journey with us.
One word that audience members used over and over to describe the film was ‘powerful’. What struck me is how this power was delivered in such a gentle way. Although their were graphic scenes, they were not filmed in the usual jerky style that is common in other films depicting animal cruelty. And the music remained peaceful during both the beautiful and tragic scenes. Many of the subjects of the film spoke quietly and slowly about their experiences as if sadness and guilt were weighing them down.
The filmmakers did a brilliant job of allowing the audience to get to know individual animals and their stories in happy settings before showing us what happens to most of them in the real world. One story that stands out for me was about a mother hen and her chick. We were able to get a close up view of how this mother taught her baby to scratch and eat through the subtlest of clucks and responsive peeps. When there was a moment of concern on the mother’s part, the baby scurried under her feathers for protection and then peeked out to see what was going on! This moving scene was followed by an image of a worker sorting through thousands of baby chicks, separating the males from the females, tossing them by their little legs. A useless byproduct of the egg industry, the live male chicks were being thrown into huge garbage bags which were tied tightly once full. This technique was used several times by the directors of the film, allowing us to connect to individual animals before witnessing the horrors they endure.
I think the most powerful thing about this film, however, is that the stories come from people within the industry. Howard Lyman, a former fourth-generation beef rancher depicted in the film, said that when he speaks to people who tell him he doesn’t understand, he replies, “What is it I don’t understand?”
I learned from these people how they were brought up to hide any feelings they had for the animals in order to survive in the industry. I learned how easy it was for them to get so caught up in their daily chores and believing they were doing something good to help feed the world that they didn’t even have time to think about what they were really doing. I also learned that they were shunned by the farming community when they decided they couldn’t do it any more.
As heart wrenching as the film is, there is a real joy to it. These people have suffered through conscience and lifestyle changes and yet they exude a peaceful quality that seems to come from the clarity that what they are doing now truly is right. They have lost the community of their former lives but find they are welcomed and supported by a whole new community of people on the same journey. The fact that these individuals, living within this huge, powerful industry have had the courage to change their way of life and commit their new lives to helping animals provides immense hope and inspiration.
We received so many positive comments from our audience members. Many said they had decided to go vegan and took home the PCRM Vegetarian Starter Kits that we had available. Everyone agreed that the film needs a wider audience. It is truly a beautiful film and I hope we will be able to show it again soon. Thanks to everyone who came out and started their journey with us. If you missed the film, you can begin your own journey at Peaceable Journey.
And if you would like to hold a screening of this film yourself, you can get info about it here. It’s surprisingly easy and you don’t need to rent out an entire theatre to do it! You can also buy a copy of Peaceable Kingdom here.