Review: ‘Speciesism: The Movie’ is a painful animal-rights documentary

A scene from "Speciesism."
(Mark Devries Productions)

“Speciesism: The Movie” feels like, and is, a product of youth. Director Mark Devries began making his awkwardly titled first-person documentary in college, and its tone is so painfully earnest it might well have begun as a class project. Heavily influenced by PETA’s messaging and inflammatory tactics — the first half-hour is practically an ode to the animal rights organization — the film is more polarizing than persuasive.

Devries initially models himself after Michael Moore, affecting a gee-whiz naiveté that’s both grating and implausible. With his camera crew, he shows up at local farms without notice and asks to see the livestock pens. When he’s understandably refused, he tries to get the gatekeeper to say something self-incriminating. It’s like watching a kid play reporter.

Then the film turns into something unexpected, but no more fun: a lecture on utilitarian philosophy. Parroting animal liberators who do most of their work in ivory towers, Devries goes through a series of logical contortions to ultimately compare factory farming to slavery and the Holocaust.

If the film’s esoteric and provocative arguments fail to convince, however, videos of chickens and cows crippled by their own body mass and a piglet being castrated without anesthesia are more than effective in making the case for the evils of corporate agriculture. But that’s just telling us something we already know.



“Speciesism: The Movie”

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: Downtown Independent, Los Angeles