Films by Holly Cecil: Human-Animal Studies

Modern relationships between humans and non-human animals are complex and wide ranging, from positive working partnerships such as companion and service animals and animal-assisted therapy partners, to exploitative relationships including animal abuse, factory farming, habitat destruction and extinction. Ethology studies are opening new doorways into better understanding animal species’ intelligence, social complexity, emotions, and intra- and inter-species cooperation that challenge long-held assumptions of human exceptionalism. I see film as a powerful tool both to conduct and to share this research, as my studies in both Art History & Visual Studies, and Anthropology, have reinforced the importance of “the visual” in human experience.

A Community of Equals: Animals in the Upper Paleolithic Art of Europe (15 min.)

    • Cantering across the stone galleries of cave walls, sensitively rendered in charcoal and ochre hues, are life-like renditions of the many species with whom Upper Paleolithic peoples shared their landscape, forty thousand to ten thousand years ago: massive aurochs and bison, inquisitive horses and ibex, jousting mammoth and rhinoceri. This short film looks at the parietal and portable art of Europe to explore why animals mattered so much to these peoples. It reveals that our modern bias of evaluating animals in purely utilitarian terms prevents our understanding the radically different ways that early humans might have perceived their landscape and the animals who inhabited it. It is their very art that communicates these priorities to us across time and space, reminding us of a time when we engaged with animals as a community of equals.

    • (click full-screen for high-definition)This film won Honourable Mention for Best Undergraduate Podium Presentation at the Currents in Anthropology research fair March 13th, 2015. View film script and research citations PDF here.

Animal-Assisted Therapy: The Role of the Interspecies Bond in Patient Recovery (10 min.)

    • This 10-minute film explores Animal-Assisted Therapy with a Canadian case study (Victoria, BC), following Registered Nurse Lisa Markin and her service dog Cajun in a sample rehabilitation therapy session. A brief history of the employment of animals in medical therapies is covered, as well as ground-breaking research on the beneficial neurochemicals released in both species during positive human-canine interactions.

The Bare Bones: Zooarchaeology at the University of Victoria (20 min.)

    • From massive whale skulls to delicate fish bones, this 20-minute film explores the renowned zooarchaeology reference collection at the University of Victoria’s Anthropology department. Featuring interviews with the collection’s main creator, Becky Wigen, and the staff and students whose research relies on its diversity of species, The Bare Bones reveals how this collection has become one of the finest in western North America.
Click on image to play

Eating for a Healthy Planet: A Conversation with Canadians (55 min.)

  • This 55-minute documentary was produced as a course project in the Human Dimensions of Climate Change interdisciplinary program, and won the 2013 University of Victoria Sustainability Project Award. This film challenges our culture’s “blind spot” in ignoring the high costs of animal agriculture, in environmental degradation, animal suffering and human health. It asks why Canadian government initiatives on climate change ignore the role of diet, and perpetuate an inaccurate reporting structure that under-represents greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. It includes interviews with several Canadians such as Elizabeth May OC MP, Leader of Canada’s Green Party, who each discuss the benefits of decreasing the amount of meat in our diet: from ‘locavores’ and flexitarians to vegetarians to vegans.

Film script and full research citations PDF here.

Additional films about the late nineteenth-century Arts and Crafts Movement that I produced through the Art History & Visual Studies Department at UVic can be viewed here (external links):

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