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Not Forgotten Yet

average rating is 3 out of 5


William Hemingway


Posted on:

Feb 27, 2022

Film Reviews
Not Forgotten Yet
Directed by:
John McDonald
Written by:
Sarah Mackenzie
Sarah Mackenzie

We've all seen the videos online of the 'everyday heroes' who find, foster and rehabilitate animals in their neighbourhood. These stray, abandoned and abused cats and dogs are cutesy fodder for the insta-generation as well as serious income for the youtubers, tiktokers and other social media moguls who film and post their 'rescues'. Some of us may view this type of content more than most, as Facebook latches onto the lag in our swiping as we come across these videos, and its all-seeing, all-powerful algorithm decides that we like this content and therefore should see more of it on our timelines. It may seem strange then that almost nobody seems to have heard of, or knows about, Shetland Animal Rescue in Hale, just south of Liverpool.


Part of the reason for this may be that Shetland Animal Rescue doesn't just deal in the cutesy saving of cats and dogs but also in less immediately appealing animals such as pigs, sheep, goats, donkeys, ducks and chickens, along with horses and ponies too. Another reason may be that it's hard to chunk the story of any one of the animals into a five minute fluff piece which can cheerfully sell advertising, as they are commonly so neglected or abused that it can take the rest of their lives, sometimes up to forty years, to recover. One more reason may be because this is an actual working rescue centre, with all of the work, cost and resource that this entails. It's not always pretty and the animals don't get brought into an upper-middle class socialite's home to start their new life in front of the camera. This is real rescue and real commitment where the animals have already found their forever home as nobody is coming to take them away anywhere better.


Film-maker John McDonald is trying to change things for the better by getting the word out there about the work being done at Shetland Animal Rescue through his documentary short, Not Forgotten Yet. Armed with just a camera, a microphone and sound technician Joseph Iliff, McDonald takes us on a tour of the shelter which used to be a working farm and which includes 35 stables and 9 acres of land.


Initially the place appears to be a bit of a state, with palettes and wheelbarrows and other junk littering the yard, along with a clapped out motor and a chewed up sofa. The animals seem to wander around freely and there's muck and feed everywhere. However, there's more going on than meets the eye. A quick peek into some of the stables and pens shows the animals who don't socialise. Those who stare at walls, find it hard to move around or turn away to avoid the gaze of those looking in. We see that the animals who do socialise do so with every other type of animal at the shelter with no segregation or in-fighting and even that old sofa actually gets used by pig, dog and sheep alike.


Sarah Mackenzie, the shelter's manager narrates her story along with McDonald's pictures. She tells of the struggles and hardship of maintaining the rescue as well as the thoughts and opinions of those who deign to shine a light on her practices. She obviously has to deal with prevailing negative views as well as positive ones but seems to take everything in her stride as she continues to do the one thing she knows she does well, which is look after the animals.


The documentary itself is fairly sparse and stripped back with Sarah's audio running over carefully edited together shots of the farm and the animals. A lot of the shots are static and stand back from the fields and the yard to give a wider view as well as a feeling of looking on at the workings of the rescue centre. McDonald does manage to get up close to some of the animals, who begin to show some sort of personality, but there are very few shots of the humans who work to look after them or of any meaningful interaction at all. That's not to say it's not there, just that the overwhelming principle of the shelter seems to be something like, 'do what we can, but let them get on with it', which appears to allow the animals the space they need to be themselves.


Whether or not McDonald's documentary will win any prizes for its technical achievements is yet to be seen. However, in terms of telling the story of Shetland Animal Rescue and getting the word out about their work and need for constant charitable support, he has already succeeded in his goal. Hopefully this documentary will find an audience, particularly in and around Liverpool where aid, support and volunteers could be sourced, and Shetland Animal Rescue continues to do its valuable work for the neglected farm animals of the country for many more years to come.

About the Film Critic
William Hemingway
William Hemingway
Short Film, Documentary
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