By Rowan Malyon.
Heart-breaking and eye-opening, Susan Rosenzweig proves that a documentary doesn’t need to be lengthy or big budget to get its point across. Though only a brief fifteen minutes, Baby Hers shines a light on the American dairy industry, intending to show how consumerism and indifference have led to cruel practices that are uncomfortable to digest.
Beginning with a quote from Agatha Christie’s The Last Séance, a short story about a woman desperate to get her child back, this film makes no bones about the director’s thoughts on the industry. Don’t let the somewhat plastic opening trick you. The use of the song ‘Baby Mine’ from Disney’s Dumbo, another tale about a mother being separated from her child, does come across as a little preachy. We can’t help but think, ‘oh, here we go again, another flimsy guilt trip’. But this is not the run of the mill conscience-hounder we are used to. This film aims to educate without instruction. It is descriptive not prescriptive.
Footage of a woman talking about her newborn baby is interwoven with clips of calves being dragged away from their mothers. The animals’ mournful cries could make even the most stone-faced viewer recoil. Pictures from inside these industrial farms, of sick and injured cows and the harvesting process they go through for our benefit, do make one wonder how we could have let things get this bad. But this short film does not set out to convince people they need to stop drinking milk, just that we need reform, and rightly so, I think.
What is refreshing about this documentary is that despite its short length, Rosenzweig gathers interviews from a range of sources. We hear from two passionate animal sanctuary owners against milk consumption; a vet and farmer trying to repopularise the more ethical, ‘old ways’ of farming; and the consumer, a mother, who would love more options when providing for her family.
It is a balanced film and, perhaps because of its brevity, the first documentary that has actually made me want to seek out more. Helpfully, Rosenzweig makes this easy for us by providing links for more information at the end of her film.
In one pithy message, she raises the point that milk consumption in the US has been on a steady decline since the 1970s. The Washington Post has published many articles questioning whether milk is all that useful in the way of bone development, and whether humans are even equipped to digest it, so this certainly is a change that consumers may be open to.
This is a topical film for a world constantly updating its ideas of what is right and what isn’t. It is guaranteed to make you feel something, whether it makes you change your consumer habits or not is up to you. It certainly made me think. Perhaps I’m biased, I’m lactose intolerant. But then, maybe we all should be.
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