Magazine article Screen International

Shaun Monson, 'Unity'

Magazine article Screen International

Shaun Monson, 'Unity'

Article excerpt

When Monson released his last film, Earthlings, it inspired oblivious carnivorous consumers to become conscious vegans. Now with his new film Unity, which premieres on August 12 in association with Specticast, Monson has an even bigger ambition - he wants to awaken your psyche.

Monson talks to Screendaily about his desire to change the industry's market for conscious content, the core inspiration for all his films, which is to awaken our consciousness to the highest state of spiritual awareness, or Homo Spiritus, and to rise above the dualities and separation that he says has humankind trapped in a Neanderthal state of mind. He does this in a film of chapters with the help of more than 100 celebrity voiceovers.

Why did you feel the input of multiple narrators was important for the message of your film?

It just seemed natural to have a tapestry of voices instead of one voice; a chorus of voices that all were sharing the same message. Twenty-five was our goal initially and it grew. It was a miniseries that became a feature film that just extended and it kept going. I couldn't believe we were close to 100. The more voices we had the more change and flow and different pieces and people were contributing to it. I was really happy with the outcome.

Were there any troubles in having all these artists contribute to the film? Did some have opposing views about the message in your film? If so, how was that handled?

We didn't really have any of that. We had a disclaimer right in the beginning of the film that makes it clear the views in the movie are the filmmaker's. Once or twice someone might say, 'Have you considered this or that?' But for the most part, the real challenge that we had was technical. First of all recording 100 people: you can imagine going to 100 people's houses, 100 people's offices or studios. They are extremely time-consuming. The editing was the most strategic because they didn't record at the same time. So each person had a different inflection, pace and the way they spoke. So when you began to put Jessica Chastain next to Ben Kingsley and maybe Selena Gomez - each one would speak a different way until I tried one first, or third. There were technical challenges [more] than physical or moral questions that came up.

Pretty much everyone would love to see war come to end and everybody's in check about the environment or children or the rights of women, all the different rights we list. If there ever was an issue, I saw it was interesting that it was an animal rights issue even though there's only about 14 minutes of animal footage in the entire film and far more [footage of] killings on humans used than there are of humans on animals. That [issue] never seems to come up because we are so calloused to human violence. You could see that all day long, but the animal stuffwould be like 'Whoa whoa', so I was wary of that and tried to not keep too much of that in there. It's not bloody animal footage; its rather tame considering what is really out there and what animals go through. We kept all of that out.

In your previous film Earthlings many viewers turned vegan after seeing the disturbing footage of animal cruelty. What is the change/result you'd like to see from viewers who watch Unity?

The whole focus of Unity is about separation and going beyond the separation. The reason why I had to make this film was because I just could not figure out people still can't get along no matter how evolved we are. We are still Neanderthals fighting over one tribe that's coloured differently than another tribe, but with more sophistication. So if it's not about appearance, which is what race would be, it would be about sexual orientation. If it wasn't about sexual orientation then it would be about political beliefs. If not about political beliefs then it was about religious beliefs. Or it's about class or it's about money. There is this constant sense of separation that humankind must break free from if we truly want to have world peace. …

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