665: New Films on Love of Animals for Earth Day 40

Some terrific new books hit stores for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. On Monday, we recommended three especially insightful new books! But, new films also are popping up! Today, we’ve got reviews of three new films—with judgments from the unique perspectives of teenagers!

That’s right. Teens form today’s ReadTheSpirit jury! All three of these new films are aimed at a broad spectrum of viewers—from teens to senior citizens. But, rather than the usual adult point of view this time, we decided to ask kids. On Sunday, we showed selected clips of all three films to the Divine Light Media crew. This is an award-wininng, high-school-age, educational group based at the First United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan (just across the street from the University of Michigan). These very bight teens have been producing their own short films for years now, so they appreciate great filmmaking when they see it. Who better for an honest “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”? Here’s what they said …


1 “The Horse Boy” new on DVD from Zeitgeist

(ALL THUMBS UP!) The cover of this DVD captures the magical moment that hooked our young reviewers and pushed the teen-aged jury to place this in the top, must-see ranking among these three reviews. The photo on the cover shows the young boy Rowan, who suffers from particularly acute autism, lying on the back of a horse. Roughly 10 minutes into this film, we see Rowan’s parents lift the little boy onto the back of a horse like this—and it’s a truly electric moment! The boy was prone to painful episodes that left him screaming, but on the back of the horse, he calms down visibly and begins to talk in a normal tone about the horse. The film concerns the real-life experiences of Rowan with his unusual parents (Dad is a journalist and a former horse trainer and Mom is a professor of psychology). Mom and Dad discover their son’s bond with horses and take him half way around the world to horse country in the hauntingly gorgeous steppes of Mongolia. What did our teen reviewers say? They were hooked on this film! “It’s so out of the ordinary!” said Joey Houghton. Eric Seitz said, “The other two films make us feel guilty about the way we treat animals, but this one? This one makes you feel good!” Alex DeHart said, “I like this one best because I know someone with autism and it’s good to see something like this on film.” Alex Koukios said, “It’s so different! I really like this one!”

You can order a copy of “The Horse Boy” on DVD from Amazon.

2 “MINE” new on DVD from Film Movement

(SOME THUMBS UP; SOME DOWN) One of the biggest stories ReadTheSpirit has been covering for the past two years is the spiritual connection millions of people feel with animals—especially their pets. “MINE,” directed by Geralyn Pezanowski, widens our vision of community life through dramatic footage taken during and after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Close your eyes and you probably can envision the news video of families rescued from rooftops and survivors floating disabled relatives through the flooded streets in row boats. What was missing in those clips? More than 100,000 pets struggling to reach safety! “Mine” opens with eye-popping video clips of animal rescuers saving pets. The heart of the film, though, is about pet owners’ long-running efforts to reunite with their pets—some of whom were sent to distant parts of the U.S. The handful of personal stories in the film raise questions about human “ownership” of animals and the rights both animals and humans should have to find a safe home. Joey strongly recommended this film. “I’ve been to New Orleans since the hurricane and I know a lot about the people’s stories—what they went through in the storm and the flooding—but this is the first time I’ve ever even heard the stories of the animals!” A couple of the students said some scenes are tough to watch for true animal lovers. As you might expect in a Katrina-related documentary, “MINE” does include some heart-breaking, real-life scenes.

You can order a copy of “MINE” on DVD from Amazon. OR, Film Movement also promotes a monthly subscription plan for its films. Click here to jump to Film Movement’s website.

3 “FOOD, Inc.” premieres nationally on PBS at 9 p.m. April 21

(SOME THUMBS UP, BUT DOWN THUMBS waaay DOWN) Reviews in other media call this documentary about American food production “important” and “essential.” PBS POV is promoting the movie as “shockingly informative.” So, pretty much, you’re forewarned! If you’re an oponent of the American mass production of food—maybe you’re a vegetarian or an advocate of localized small farms—then this documentary is a hard slap in the face about the state of our food industry. Loaded with troubling data about industrial-scale farms and food processing, one adult in the room during our screenings actually had to leave because some of the imagery is so upsetting. The teenagers? They all stayed and were evenly divided. Michael Saunders picked “FOOD, Inc.” as his top choice of the three, arguing, “Looks very interesting. I can relate to the issues in this film.” Others agreed with him, until a a couple of the young people began to complain that “FOOD, Inc.” is “manipulative” in defense of its agenda. Eric Seitz said, “It feels like an emotional attack on me as I watch it.” At that point, Blake Martin stuck up for it: “I’m not guilt tripped by this. I’m really curious about where our food comes from and this tells us a whole lot.” It certainly does cover a lot of acres in 93 minutes—but be aware that it’s tough for some viewers to stomach.

REMEMBER: Always check PBS showtimes! Here’s the special PBS POV website for “FOOD Inc.”

OR: You can order a copy of “FOOD, Inc.” on DVD from Amazon.

(Originally published at readthespirit.com)

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