Ever wanted to pack your life—band, dog, partner, and all—into a van and cruise the country for a year? Since last September, Eleni Vlachos and Rob Gilbride have been model on-the-road activists, screening her documentary Seeing Through the Fence
, playing gigs as their alter-egos Eleni Binge and Rob Beloved of the band Beloved Binge
, and leafleting at college campuses around the country.
“You can’t just be an activist if you’re going to survive long-term. I think you really need to nurture your other interests as well, so you can be a whole person,” says Vlachos. Thankfully for the animals, Vlachos’ “other interests” are interviewing people about why they eat meat, then screening the resulting documentary at colleges across the North America. Since its release in January of 2008, Seeing Through the Fence—which melds interviews with Vlachos’ family and community members, investigative footage, and expert testimony—has been shown before dozens of audiences. “I’ve screened with environmental groups and now I’ve started scheduling screenings through philosophy clubs. In some cases I’m going to be speaking in front of 75 to 100 philosophy students so I’m trying to bring it to a large, non-veg audience.” Focusing on the college-campus circuit, Gilbride leaflets while Vlachos books their next gig. Part of the attraction to working around campuses is the potential to get people going veg as early as possible. “[Students] are young and more open, and they have a long life of potential meat-eating or not-meat-eating ahead of them,” says Vlachos.
Another tactic Vlachos employs is the open-dialog tone of her film. “On purpose, I kept the [graphic] footage pretty minimal and I have the humor in there, too, because that way people will watch it and not shut down,” she says. While she admits that screaming about the atrocities animals suffer would be her druthers, she knows that no one likes being yelled at, and instead keeps her message couched in conversation. Responses to the film have been powerful, according to Vlachos, both because of what it does show and what it doesn’t. “I had a friend who wasn’t vegetarian, and I’d sent her footage of a turkey hatchery in North Carolina. She thought it was horrible, but continued eating meat. Then she saw the documentary and there’s a scene where you’re eye to eye with a chicken and it pulled up this image of footage she’d seen of the Holocaust. After that she became vegan. The reason she said the other footage didn’t get her was that she shut down, it was just too much to be confronted with.”
The easy-going, upbeat nature that comes across clearly in conversation with both Vlachos and Gilbride serves the couple well, as they live and work out of their van, Weston. Once they get back to their fixed-up North Carolina home-base sometime later this year, Vlachos says she’s thinking about taking the history of chickens—often misunderstood and mocked as they are—as the subject of her next documentary.
Classic documentaries such as The Witness, Earthlings, and Peaceable Kingdom have stood the test of time, but if you’re looking for a new release, there’s a new crop of veg-themed docs coming soon to a screening near you.
focuses on three meat-eating New Yorkers who make over their diets for six weeks.
highlights people who happen to be vegan, but who aren’t necessarily full-time activists.
Meat the Truth
examines the connection between animal agriculture and environmental denigration.