Pros: Interesting, informative, passionate documentary.
Cons: One sided viewpoint; some upsetting graphic images.
Behind the Mask : “The story of the people who risk everything to save animals,” was produced and directed by Shannon Keith. It features disturbing images of animals being mistreated, in many cases by testing lab employees and features underground footage of ALF - Animal Liberation Front raids involving acts of sabotage. Testing labs are raided, animals are rescued and are put into what amounts to an Underground Railroad of doctors and animal caregivers who try to save and then care for the animals.
We meet some of the people involved with successful animal rescues and see home-video quality videos snippets of illegal raids and animal cruelty. What emerges is an eye-opening, informative documentary with an agenda. It’s a propaganda piece thought it does not pretend to be fair and balanced.
There are many interviews with some of the leading figures in the animal liberation movement and with other organization leaders, journalists and clips from Martin Luther King, and even Nelson Mandella. We hear from doctors who don’t believe there is any useful purpose to animal testing, but we don’t hear from any one who defends animal testing. We see a montage of Shannon Keith making some phone calls to people who won’t talk to her and perhaps these were people with drug companies and who run animal testing labs—it isn’t made clear.
Behind the Mask is a passionate documentary with a definite agenda that offers a definite perspective on why many members of ALF are willing to break the law, spend time in prison and even risk their lives to stop the abuse of animals. Some of the animal testing and most of the animal cruelty is illegal but little is done to stop the abuse and enforcement agencies don’t pursue cases. Supposedly many Universities get grants from drug and cosmetic manufacturing companies to do animal testing and a lot of the work/ animal testing is performed by students. Some of the testing is inhumane—maybe all of it. A lot of it is illegal.
Among those interviewed in the film: Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of People for the Treatment of Animals (PETA); 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 who also discovered and produced The USED; Jerry Vlasak, a 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 the non-profit Last Chance for Animals, and several others including some sympathetic media reporters and Bill Mahr.
Several of the people interviewed explain that most change happens because enough attention is created, through actions that include civil disobedience, protests and actions that break the law. Every social justice movement that has been successful has had members willing to break the law. The Animal Liberation Front is considered one of the most dangerous domestic terrorist extremist group in the U.S. even though they are interested in saving and helping animals, and they have not physically harmed any people through any of their actions.
The activists interviewed are passionate and dedicated to their cause of saving animals from cruel and inhumane abuse. If you don’t know much about ALF, and what they do, and are concerned about animal rights you should watch this documentary.
Behind the Mask is very low budget, utilizing a lot of public domain footage and interviews from a variety of sources. It’s not dull.
I learned a few things and was often fascinated with some of the activists who are willing to risk everything they have, their freedom and life for their cause. There are many quickly shown graphic images of animal cruelty that are upsetting.