Kingdom of Animal is a one-shot documentary revealing the experiential sensations of factory laborers who process lobsters and fish inside three interconnected factories on the coast of Prospect Harbor, Maine. Our cinematic approach took three months to prepare before we recorded Kingdom of Animal (we have four different versions). We initially acted as trained ethnographers, relying on the skill of patience, participation, and experiential observation (for instance, we worked in various parts of the factory to understand the rhythmic sensations of redundant movement, interactions, touch and smell). We especially gave particular attention to the rhythms and patterns of workers, the timing of lunch-breaks, delivery of product, and methods of moving the camera to seamlessly flow from one space to the next. The result is a seventy-two minute single, moving shot with no edits or cuts. Our goal was to reveal an “order of things,” a structure of an experience, and find drama in the mundane experiences of situational work. The continuous long-shot allows for a continuation of experience and it makes the familiar unfamiliar (and vice versa). It also helps viewers recognize the boundaries and limitations of how documentaries are often edited to convey a message, expose an injustice, collapse time, and make a statement or social impact by sending a message. We certainly recognize the importance of these documentary goals, but we also hope a space exists for documentary to simply leave an everlasting impression through slow cinema. We made Kingdom of Animal to elide the three act structure, interviews, and external music and, instead, show an experiential story by using as few words as possible, ultimately relying on cinema’s most basic powerful elements: image and sound.
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