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It is not often that a film is made to give ‘terrorists’ a voice, especially when the people concerned are categorised as the number one domestic terrorist threat in the US by the FBI. Behind The Mask, a film about animal liberationists who break the law to free animals from laboratories, provides previously unseen footage on this much debated topic. No doubt, it has stirred controversy with accusations of glamourising vandalism.

Of late, animal rights activists have taken to illegal and violent actions to rescue animals from laboratories. However, such efforts have been widely condemned by the public and the mainstream media in the West.

Shannon Keith (writer-director), an American animal rights lawyer, made this film in an endeavour to present the animal rights activists’ side of the story. According to Keith, change only happens in society when laws are broken. The film shows footage of an animal rights activist named Jill Phipps being killed during a protest regarding transportation of live animals. “They call us terrorists but the reality is that over the years four animal rights activists have been killed during protests,” notes Jill’s mother, Nancy Phipps, in the film.

Keith Mann, Rod Coronado, Ingrid Newkirk, Melanie Arnold, Jerry Vlasak and Kevin Jonas have all been imprisoned for indulging in illegal activities and all of them present their opinions in the film. They are well-known names in the animal rights movement who believe in direct action to save animals from torture.

Footage of animal rights activists setting ablaze a slaughterhouse sets one thinking if ends justify the means. Arsonist Melanie Arnold says, “If I had an opportunity, I would do it again since economic damage to animal abusers is justifiable.” The film draws parallels between violence in the animal rights movement and violence in the human rights movement. There is great music synchronised with action footage and quotes from John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Junior have been utilised effectively.

Regardless of what one thinks about the tactics of the Animal Liberation Front, the film is an extraordinary one that is well worth watching. The film is available by order from www.uncagedfilms.com

Shubhobroto Ghosh

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