By Anthony J. Nocella, II
Political Media Review
7 February, 2009
Behind the Mask, a production of Uncaged Films and ARME directed and produced by Shannon Keith, is an outstanding and thought provoking documentary about the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Winner of numerous awards, the seventy-two minute investigative film weaves together interviews with some of the leading figures in the animal liberation movement with undercover footage of animals in laboratories, as well as being liberated and in loving sanctuaries. Throughout the film Keith interviews Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of People for the Treatment of Animals; Dr. Steve Best, professor at the University of Texas El Paso; Ronnie Lee, founder of the Animal Liberation Front; Rod Coronado, former member of the Animal Liberation Front; Keith Mann, former member of the Animal Liberation Front in England; John Feldman, singer for the popular band Goldfinger; Jerry Vlasak, doctor in Los Angeles and member of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office; Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society; Chris Derose, founder of Last Chance for Animals, an animal cruelty investigation nonprofit, and many others.
The films subtitle: “The story of the people who risk everything to save animals,” is nothing but the truth. For more than thirty years the organization has been freeing nonhuman animals around the world and destroying property that causes harm to those animals totaling up in the hundreds of millions of dollars of “damage.” As the film explains, the ALF has been identified by the FBI as the number one domestic threat in the U.S. despite the fact that they are against harming any living creature human or nonhuman, and have not harmed anyone since becoming established in the mid-1970s.
It is extremely important to have such a comprehensive documentary on the ALF because they, as controversial as the Zapatistas, Black Panther Party, American Indian Movement, and the Weather Underground, have not seen much attention within the social justice movement and that which they have received has been massive repression by law enforcement around the world. Although not as sensational, and produced with much less funding than documentaries such as The Weather Underground which social justice activists have shown repeatedly at schools, community centers, and activist meetings and conferences, Behind the Mask should be valued and utilized the same way. Unfortunately it has not been for two reasons: first because the film stresses the value and respect for nonhuman animals and not simply humans, and second, it is not a historical film but rather it is speaking about extremists today.
People often say that if they were back in the sixties they would be marching with Martin Luther King Jr. and supporting Malcolm X, or they would join the Weather Underground, as today members of the Weather Underground and Black Panther Party are respected professors at top universities. This film challenges the viewer to recognize that the animal liberation movement and ALF are the imperative revolutionary groups for today’s society, and to take action to support them.
This is an extraordinary and captivating film that should be watched by anyone that believes that animal rights is a terrorist movement, who eats meat, or who just wants to understand what the ALF is about. It is perfect to show at activist conferences and meetings, as well as college courses in the field of environmental sociology, criminology, philosophy, peace and conflict studies, and environmental education.