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Freedom Fighters

New movies probes the bloody animal-rights movement.

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A couple years ago, the FBI declared animal-rights activists the no. 1 terrorist threat to the U.S. Oscar-winner Curt Johnson couldn’t quite figure out how a bunch of leafies leaped over al-Qaeda to claim the top spot. So he picked up his camera and made Your Mommy Kills Animals, a documentary that looks at the occasionally volatile liberation movement. “I knew nothing about it,” he says. “All I knew about were people throwing red paint on fur coats, like they did on an episode of Will & Grace.”

Johnson got a quick primer while shooting the movie. One of the film’s most intriguing sections chronicles the trial (and eventual imprisonment) of the SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) 7 -- an Animal Liberation Front group charged with causing “economic damage” to a research facility. Their plight unspools on camera. “I don’t want to work on a film if I know the ending,” says Johnson. “I like when a film takes on a life of its own. One minute you like somebody, and the next minute, you’re like, ‘I don’t like that person so much.’” Your Mommy Kills Animals contains plenty of grisly and disturbing scenes -- including the slaughtering of animals and activists bombing and ransacking various corporations. “You have some people who’ve gone over the line,” admits Johnson. “If somebody just wants to blow shit up, this gives them an excuse.” Still, he thinks he’s managed to present an objective portrait of all factions. “It’s definitely easier to make a slanted film,” he laughs. “The biggest complaint I’ve had from both sides is that I let the other side talk too much.” www.clevelandcinemas.com.
Fri., Sept. 7

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