Directed By: Chris Delforce Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Sia Documentary Film Review by: Jack Bottomley
Documentaries can be a force of great change. They educate, inform and illuminate but many can muster a great societal change and open the lid on issues that have until now been contained. This new Australian documentary film by Chris Delforce is one such feature and, like The Cove, Blackfish and Earthlings (a film this has been already compared to and another film featuring Joaquin Phoenix), Dominion is a disturbing rally call for change.
Through the use of hidden cameras, drones and undercover filming, the film covers a range of industries from the animal agricultural business to clothing, research and entertainment and cuts open the dark underbelly of these practices revealing the horror, pain and suffering of the animals involved. Exec produced by the likes of the vegan shop All About Empathy and Animal Liberation, the filmmaker’s stance is clear but the images speak louder than any of the big name narrators (including Phoenix, Sia, Rooney Mara, alongside Delforce himself) ever could.
Despite some effective scoring by Asher Pope, the soundtrack to this film is less the music and more the diegetic sound, most prominently the screaming. This film, for 2 hours, presents more misery, cruelty and lingering violence than I can ever recall seeing in a film. The footage not only highlights the fundamental failing of many trusted industries or an absolute absence of morality, respect and basic humanity in the face of nature but what lingers most – even more than the violence and death itself – is the unnecessary joy taken in it.
Throughout the duration of this highly sickening film, we see people laughingly torture and flippantly maim without any semblance of regard or feeling. The most worrying takeaway is not the failure of these industries to consider animal’s rights or emotions but the way in which individuals enjoy causing more torment, more pain and more bloodshed than necessary. The film paints a damning statement of our race’s moral and ethical decay, linking it to our violent actions of the past.
The filming techniques are staggering in their construction and the crew’s unwavering commitment to reveal the darkness is worthy of the utmost admiration. As this is hard to sit through, so god knows how hard it was to compile and witness. Dominion asks us directly what to make of this and it is hard to formulate an answer without allowing rage to take over. The film’s core value is to make us think about our relationship with the animal kingdom and assess the power we use (and abuse) but more than that, through the viscera stained graphic footage and lingering power, Dominion exposes how we need to grow, we need to improve and frankly, we need to wake the hell up.
Not in a long time has a film like this shaken me and not because of the shock that such evil acts go on but because of the visual confirmation of the lengths to which they occur. Dominion showed me further proof of modern day inhumanity and how profit has long since over taken any grain of kindness. Thankfully the film does show some signs of hope in how this team has rallied and saved what they can where they can, while showing the world what really goes on behind the locked doors, slaughterhouses and workshops.
That said, whether this is enough to compensate for everything else is up for debate, as there is little joy in this vital document and nor should there be in any rational onlooker, in fact it is a depressing, distressing and damning statement on mankind as it currently stands. Though, as the film suggests, it is up to people to improve and advance because these voiceless victims cannot do anything but scream in pained confusion at their needless torture, before being silenced by that one final blow, as the perpetrator laughs about it, hiding behind a corporation, belief, job title or worse yet not hiding their wretched amusement at all.
Perhaps these screams emerging from this crucial film will follow me to the grave, and so they should.
Watch the official movie trailer for Dominion below...