The vegan community is fortunate to have an abundant creative population that is mining their talents to insert the message and tools for compassionate living into the larger culture. From entrepreneurial efforts, such as Ethically Engineered, the local personal care products makers, to prolific, thoughtful authors such as Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and a million points in between, vegan culture builders are indeed making inroads on influencing our meat-eating society. When we think about the how deeply entrenched cruelty to animals is in our mainstream culture, and how immense the suffering and scale is, it's very easy to become overwhelmed. We are taking on something huge here, giving voice to something that others more often than not do not want to hear. Given that, I am thoroughly uplifted when I think about how penetratingly the compassionate living culture is beginning to influence society. Far from the days when I became vegan in 1995, when we had our teeny meetings in church basements with the same (often mentally ill) people week after week, today's vegan population is much more widespread, diverse and influential. It's very exciting to be a part of, needless to say.
Of course, one of the most visceral tools we have for influencing society is through the medium of film. Documentary films in particular can be powerfully life-altering as viewers are given a lens into a world they rarely see. There is little that is as hidden from public view as the treatment of animals in society, particularly that of those animals that we use for our purposes. We want to keep living our convenient, familiar lives with the blindfolds that ignorance affords us. Thankfully, there are a couple of very talented filmmakers who are determined to thoughtfully and bravely raise public consciousness on this. The filmmakers, Jenny Stein and James LaVeck, are partners in Tribe of Heart, director and producer respectively. Their films have won numerous awards, such as Best of Festival at the Crested Butte Reel Fest and Best Documentary at the Brooklyn Film Festival and the Canyonlands Film Festival. They are not a couple of slackers walking around with a video camera and hoping for the best. They are thoughtful, deeply moving and powerful filmmakers that create change without manipulation.
I saw their first film, The Witness, in 2000. A window into one man's transformation from "regular guy" into a passionate champion for animals (and the creative tool he constructs for getting the word out), The Witness is about reinvention and redemption, and the fact that no matter our backgrounds, we can always become more compassionate, engaged, fully alive individuals. It is a beautiful film. The screening I was at - admittedly one at a vegetarian event, so full of sympathetic viewers - was filled with tears and smiles at the end. Tribe of Heart films will break your heart a little, but they will also uplift it. When we screened The Witness at The Conference For Conscious Living in front of nearly 300 people in 2001, it was a profoundly moving shared experience. People left the conference that day full of community spirit and eager to be compassionate advocates for animals.
Their eagerly anticipated new film, Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, is now doing the film festival circuit and picking up awards along the way. Even though it's early into their circuit, they've already won the Best Feature Documentary at the Moondance Film Festival and Official Selection at numerous other film festivals. With Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, the Tribe of Heart crew again brings us a story of deeply personal transformation. The film explores the lives of several people who grew up in traditional farming communities and households, and, how along their individual paths, their consciousness and spirits became awakened. The individuals featured now work on behalf of animals and have profound convictions about interconnectedness and compassionate living. This is a feature length film. I can't promise that you won't cry, but I will promise that you will leave uplifted. Of course, Peaceable Kingdom: A Journey Home also explores the complex emotional lives of the farm animals themselves.
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home will be screening at The Peace On Earth Film Festival at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Street, on Saturday, February 27 in the Claudia Cassidy Theater. It is free of change and first come, first seated. The film will be shown in a block at begins at 7:15; their film begins at 8:15 but expect that you should come for the whole block to ensure seating. Harold Brown, a subject of the film and a former beef farmer, will be at the screening, as will the filmmakers, Jenny Stein and James LaVeck. A Q&A will follow the screening. You won't want to miss this sure-to-be amazing experience. Extra vegan points brownie points if you bring an omnivore!
Please spread the word. You never know how many lives you can influence. Please RSVP at the Facebook event page. I hope to see you there!