UNITY: 5 minutes with Shaun Monson

By Kate Hassett

UNITY: 5 minutes with Shaun Monson
Director Shaun Monson speaks about UNITY and what it means to be human in the 21st century.

Director Shaun Monson is no stranger when it comes to impactful projects. Having completed ‘Earthlings’ – the harrowing documentary that exposed the suffering endured by animals at the hands of humans, Monson struck a chord with like minded people around the world.

When the project ended in 2005, Monson set his sights towards a far more elemental exploration of humankind. As such, UNITY was born.

Seven years in the making, what started as a 6 part series, soon proved to be a bigger project all together. The film explores the concept of compassion and understanding, and how humankind, through devastation, killing and torture have lost what it means to be human.

UNITY is an incredible tale about how the world’s most shattering conflicts are often based on perceived opposites – a “separation based on form”.

Presenting a message that appeals to our senses, Monson is asking that we prioritise love and hope over an obsession with differing opinions and learn to rebuild the world through compassion.

With a cast of 101 narrators, Monson is asking voices of our generation to work together to ensure the next generation, has a voice to speak with.

What is ‘Unity’ to you?

Unity is about no longer seeing opposites in one another. It’s about no separation based on form. Not the same, but equal. Really there are no so-called “opposites.” Life is multitudinous. So what we really have here is a Universal All. We just tend to favour some forms over others, which is either taught, or completely arbitrary.

What sparked the initial interest in this project?

It’s a marvel how far humanity has come in just the past couple hundred years alone. The technology, the science, the diplomacy (at least in many parts of the world), the acceptance, the knowledge, the increasing sensitivity and awareness for the environment, the animals, our fellow man, etc. And yet, in the same breath, we’re still at war with one another, bickering, arguing, comparing, condemning, separating, punishing, for this reason or that. It’s quite primal really. So despite all these wonderful advancements the ego is still alive and well. We may no longer be cavemen clubbing each other to death, but we still have that primitive need to be top dog. So the ego has merely adapted to a modern environment and learnt to express itself in more sophisticated ways: what car one drives, what brand of clothes they wear, or what store they were bought from, how much money they have in the bank, and so on. And I thought this subject might be worthy of shinning a light on in a film.

What is your outlook of the world at the moment? What do you feel is the biggest issue, stopping us from truly unifying our world?

Perceived opposites, in groups and out groups, duality. It’s everywhere. Are you Democrat or Republican, are you gay or straight, black or white, this or that, do you like this team or that team, the villain or the hero? What “side” are you on, (people love to say that). All this is completely arbitrary in a world of life forms as multitudinous as this one. So in light of all this, how do we unify our world? With patience and respect for one another’s delusions, I should think. Better yet, with compassion.

How did you go about collecting your narrators? Was this project initially meant to extend to the scale it was in it’s final form? 

25 was the original goal, but we overshot it, you could say (ha!). The idea was for a chorus of voices, and the more I edited the more I felt the chorus should be bigger. It’s the difference between a monotone and a symphony. There’s nothing wrong with a single note, mind you. It can be lovely, but its monotone. A symphony, however, contains the power of an entire orchestra.

This film is certainly transformational and thought provoking, but what is the greatest message you hope viewers take away from watching it?

Not the same, but equal. This cannot be understated. If we could fully understand that simple fact, just imagine the world we would live in.

Do you believe human kind is capable of changing their mindset when it comes to the need for more compassion? 

Of course! We don’t crucify people anymore. We abolished slavery. Women have the right to vote. Gay marriage is legal. Civil rights, equal rights, environmental rights, animal rights … it’s amazing how far we’ve come, considering how barbaric we once were, and not that long ago.

Do you think we can enact change in this lifetime?

We already are!

How can we start to rebuild this world in our lifetime?

Simply by recognizing that we are not the same, but equal. Clearly life is expressed in multitudinous ways, and that life is dear to all. Every being clings to life. Just look how dear the existence is. It’s nothing more than the Golden Rule really, which is hardly a revelation. It’s nothing new. That’s the take home message of UNITY: Not the same, but equal. Somehow we’ve forgotten that. Remembering it is how we can rebuild our world.

To see where UNITY is screening around you and to book tickets, click here. 




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