BOKDAYS Film Exposed - a Cautionary Tale
BOKDAYS Film Exposed - a Cautionary Tale
My name is Michele Brown and I am an animal welfare activist, rescuer and frontline fighter against the dog and cat meat trade in Asia and Africa. In my 30 years as a first-response rescuer I have witnessed my fair share of animal cruelty, but nothing compares to the unspeakable brutality inflicted upon companion animals in dog and cat-eating countries. This is why I have made it my life’s mission to stop this gruesome trade by exposing it for what it is – heinous animal cruelty.
To help raise public awareness about this pressing issue, I recently produced a short, controversial film titled: “BOKDAYS, Hidden In the Land Of Morning Calm,” which focuses on the dog and cat meat trade in South Korea. It was made in early 2013 with the intention of premiering it at Cannes Film Festival in May, of the same year. I put the footage together, wrote the script, narrated it, edited the music and made the poster for the festival. I used to write a blog about the dog and cat meat trade called Chiffon River, so I made BOKDAYS under the name of Chiffon River Productions.
But little did I suspect that not only would this film never make it to Cannes but that it would also be used as a publicity stunt to further someone else’s agenda and be stolen from me. But then, I guess that’s what happens when you put your trust in people who claim to care about animals but really care more about themselves.
The rescue community is overflowing with well-intentioned individuals who are truly passionate about animals and protecting them from harm. But along with these many good souls, animal issues also attract a certain percentage of people who may care about animals but whose true, underlying objectives can include attracting personal attention, exerting control, bullying others and profiting financially and receiving public acclaim. In my opinion, those are the kinds of people who give the animal welfare community the unfair – but sometimes accurate – reputation of being full of “crazies” and “fanatics.”
I unfortunately had the displeasure of working with such an individual last year and as a result, paid dearly for it. Up until now I have remained silent about my experience, choosing to turn the other cheek rather than lowering myself to this person’s level but the bullying and extreme level of hatred that I thought would lessen with time only continues to grow worse. So I have decided to tell my story, not merely because I want to get this upsetting experience off of my chest and set the record straight, but also because I’d like to caution those who want to help animals, but may not know who they’re getting involved with when they sign on with certain organizations or individuals. So while I will always encourage people to get involved and do whatever they can to make a better world for animals, I also want to stress how important it is to do your homework and look before you leap into this sometimes perilous world.
Partnering Up to Save the Animals
Early in 2013 I began working with Julia de Cadenet who claimed to be a fellow anti-dog and cat meat activist. While we never met in person, she was a legal professional who had come highly recommended to me, so innocently I thought she might be a good partner who could really help get a movement underway. Together we formed an organisation focused on ending the dog and cat meat trade.
I did NOT ever fly to the UK or sign any paperwork to be appointed as a Director, such as banking documents. I did not know I was supposed to have signed in person, therefore my signature was forged. On De Cadenet’s demand I did send her a copy of my passport as she said that was all she needed and the information would be kept safe because “she is a barrister.”
In mid September 2013 De Cadenet told me she had (recently) forged my signature (again.) Without my knowledge or consent De Cadenet had forged my signature AGAIN, to the Charities Commission and now made me First Director.
I had NO knowledge this had taken place. This is the only reason I was listed as First Director for the month of September. I asked for immediate removal, resigned and severed all association with De Cadenet and her organisation.
I never had any banking account pass codes or knowledge of their accounts or their paypal accounts.
We agreed that to be successful in our mission we would need to bring heavy public attention to this issue, so ‘De Cadenet’ thought that being the first to premier a film about this subject at the Cannes Film Festival would be a great way to raise awareness. And that I would have to make my first movie in just 10 weeks! Although I was daunted by the idea, I accepted the challenge because more than anything I wanted to help all the innocent animals, dying by the thousands every day in dog and cat-eating countries.
I had nothing to work with when I started the film, so the project entailed me sitting through thousands of hours of sickening film footage and hundreds of photographs depicting unspeakable dog and cat cruelty. I wept buckets of tears as I worked day and night, intent on getting the project done before the festival submission deadline.
For part of the film I used (with written permission) 20-year-old BBC footage that was filmed inside South Korea’s infamous Moran Market, where hundreds of dogs and cats are still brutally slaughtered each day. I was not given any funding to make the film, so I had to spend my own money on editing software, which was essential because the film footage was so old and almost every frame needed major work.
The process was hard enough without De Cadenet in the background, telling me what to do and constantly reminding me how much was riding on the film. Numerous times I told her to stay out of the creative process and leave me alone, but she just jokingly referred to herself as my “stage mother.” She was simply a control freak.
I only found out some time later after I’d made the film that any movie footage submitted to Cannes must be filmed within that same calendar year. Since she was in charge of submitting the film, De Cadenet would have already known about this particular rule but she never mentioned it to me. I later took that as another indicator that I had been asked to make the film for reasons other than spreading awareness about the dog and cat meat trade.
During the frantic period of preparing the final edit of the film, De Cadenet became adamant about having her name listed as producer and her legal firm included in the closing credits. Not thinking anything about it, I simply complied, bolstered by her promise that I would be able to remove her name and take full credit for the film once the festival was over (I have that in an email from De Cadenet pictured below).
Submission to Cannes Film Festival
BOKDAYS was submitted to the festival in April while I was away in New Zealand for a few weeks. I hoped to return home to a much calmer atmosphere that would allow me to devote my energies to campaigning for the film leading up to its premier the following month, but instead, tensions around De Cadenet couldn’t have been more heightened.
A couple of weeks later, De Cadenet told me that BOKDAYS hadn’t been accepted into the festival but “it will still be at Cannes.” I wasn’t shocked because of the 20-year-old, low resolution film footage I had had to use, which would cause the film to pixelate when played on a large screen. Still, De Cadenet was adamant that BOKDAYS would be part of the festival, telling me that she had applied for the film to be included in the main sector of Cannes rather than the short film corner, which would be better suited to the film due to its controversial topic. So according to her, my short film would now be in the same section as the major full-length feature films.
Looking back, I admit I was naïve and was completely out of my depth in knowing what was really happening with my film. I live in Australia and have never had any dealings with anything like the Cannes Film Festival. All I could do was trust that De Cadenet was indeed the expert she presented herself to be. But by this time, I sensed that something wasn’t right.
At Cannes Film Festival
As our organization’s campaign manager, De Cadenet decided she would be the one to represent BOKDAYS at Cannes, while I would remain home promoting my film online – the film I believed was going to be shown at the festival. Since May 18 2013 was supposed to be BOKDAYS’s big launch day, we decided to also make it our World Awareness Day against the dog meat trade.
Since I did not attend the festival, I had to rely on De Cadenet’s depiction of what happened: she arrived at the festival – days after it was already underway – where she met up with a group of French ladies, who were also animal activists. Evidently they stood in the gutter in the pouring rain on the edge of the road next to the festival, holding up banners advertising the organization and its cause. According to De Cadenet this campaign was a great success because they were photographed by Reuters.
Note: I have never been able to find a Reuters photo of De Cadenet and the French ladies at Cannes, nor have I seen one single photo of De Cadenet inside the Cannes venue itself. However, I have seen photos of her standing in the gutter in the rain, on the pavement and in front of the escalators that go up into the building.
In addition, De Cadenet claimed she tricked the South Korean Film Commission into watching my entire film. As they shouted at her to turn it off, she supposedly screamed obscenities at them and pointed her finger in their faces, screaming, “I will have you banned from Cannes Film Festival!” I have no idea if this really happened, but I do know that angry Korean men would not take kindly to being pushed around or screamed at by an overbearing western woman, so it seems pretty unlikely that it did.
De Cadenet did send me a glamour shot of herself at the festival where she’s draped around a power pole on the side of a road, holding a tiger skin handbag with one of our organization leaflets on it. The photo could have been taken anywhere, so I don’t know if she was at Cannes or not. When she emailed me the picture she asked me to Photoshop her on the red carpet, knowing full well that I do not believe in photoshopping press photos and I refused to do it.
Meanwhile, people were starting to question the credibility of whether BOKDAYS really was at Cannes. In fact, the online controversy was growing by the day. When I alerted her to this, De Cadenet became agitated and kept saying she didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. She told me to say that the film was “at” Cannes instead of “in” Cannes and showed me the film’s name in the festival catalogue. I asked why we couldn’t show this entry in the catalogue as proof of the film being at Cannes but she refused. What I did not know back then is that the festival catalogue is simply a listing of films that had been submitted for entry and are for sale but aren’t necessarily being shown.
De Cadenet also pointed out that BOKDAYS had been “uploaded to the Cinnando website so people could view it at Cannes.” However, little did I know that this did NOT mean the film had been accepted into the festival. Cinnando is an online screening room where people can view the festival entries. I understand now that any film that is submitted to Cannes is listed in the catalogue and can be uploaded to this screening room. But at that time, De Cadenet used the Cinnando screening room to convince me that BOKDAYS was at Cannes. In turn, I did my best to try and convince others that what I was being told was true, fighting tooth and nail to defend my film until I started realizing that what I was being told wasn’t making sense. Cinando can be contacted here for more information regarding exactly who they are and what they are about.
Two months later, public outrage had not settled down. I had written an article for our website about BOKDAYS being at Cannes. People took it upon themselves to contact the film festival and one individual even published a response letter from Cannes clearly stating that the film had indeed not been there. During this time I had given a few interviews, each time saying that the film had been in or at Cannes. But on one such occasion, a French radio station had done their homework and revealed to me that BOKDAYS had not been at Cannes but had been “sidelined,” which means it had not been accepted or included in the festival. Even though her story was steadily falling apart, De Cadenet insisted that everyone, including the French radio station, were wrong.
PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING EMAIL FROM THE BOTTOM, UPWARD, to follow the conversation:
I was confused, disappointed and saddened. It seemed that the entire point of making the film had been lost. No one was focusing on the dogs and cats in the live meat trade, only whether or not the film had been included in the Cannes Film Festival. I no longer knew who or what to believe and everyone seemed to have their own agenda. Even to this day, I do not know for sure if my film ever made it to Cannes.
Had I have known that De Cadenet’s main objective was just to have her name in the Cannes catalogue with the words “dog meat” attached to it for a publicity stunt, I would not have ploughed through thousands of hours of gut-wrenching, heartbreaking footage nor put myself through such emotional stress and grief to make the film. I would not have worked day and night and put my heart and soul into something for several weeks just so someone else could promote herself and her legal firm in film credits and in print, all the while knowing that the film would not be accepted or included in the festival. BOKDAYS wasn’t the only thing that had been sidelined at Cannes – I had been sidelined, as well.
Any outrage anyone might feel reading this article pales in significance compared to the moment when De Cadenet finally blurted out the truth to me on Sept 21st, 2013 via video Skype:
“Oh, your film went to Cannes, alright [laughter] – in my pocket, in my coat pocket!” [laughing] “It was seen at Cannes alright, by a couple of girls in my hotel room [laughing] and at the airport when I opened my laptop and walked away and just let it play!” [laughing.]
The following photo is a screenshot of an interview with me, from the French Radio Station – note the comment at the bottom of the page written by De Cadenet on December 19, 2013, who states: “Our film BOKDAYS was shown at le Marche du Film Cannes Film Market as well as many of the country Pavilions…” after which she goes into an ad for her organisation.
A Hard Lesson
The organisation currently has countless websites listed under a multitude of names in a blatant attempt to bully any organisation who uses the two words “dog” and “meat” in their name. This organisation’s bullying tactics ultimately hurts the dogs and cats, who are already suffering unspeakable cruelty in the meat trade.. Amongst these countless websites under countless names and identities, is my film BOKDAYS, being displayed on each of their websites, under the false pretence as a film that went to Cannes Film Festival. They are using my film to wring tears out of viewers in the hope that the viewer will be moved to donate money. YouTube has still failed to remove my film even though I am the curator. I feel violated and let down.
This is first time I have ever spoken out about events surrounding the film and my former association with De Cadenet. Many people voiced their furious opinions about this debacle but no one ever approached me or asked for my story, nor did anyone seem to care that I was the one who had been duped more than anyone. My biggest mistake was being gullible enough to trust someone I thought was reputable and believing what I was told. While the film ended up being buried in shame and hate, the dogs and cats were the ones who really lost out over this.
De Cadenet held the false belief that I wanted fame. I did not want fame, I wanted to inform people about the dog and cat meat trade so they could spread the word and join the fight to halt it. I had been fighting the trade for years as a lone voice at a time when no one listened. When I first wrote about what was happening in Vietnam people thought I was making it up. I had witnessed unspeakable cruelty that I knew had to be exposed. The enormity of the global dog and cat meat trade was far beyond anyone’s imagination and while a couple of countries were receiving exposure, many countries were flying under the radar. Having witnessed it in real life, I had to try and do something. I made a secret vow to all the animals I witnessed and wanted so much to help but couldn’t. I told them I was so sorry for their pain and that they would not die in vain.
Despite the fact that I had so little to work with, I believe that BOKDAYS effectively conveys the atrocities of the dog and cat meat markets and a horrible industry that needs to be exposed. I don’t regret the work I put into the film because I know it has touched the hearts of some people, but I regret being used as a pawn in someone else’s ill-intentioned game.
I wept from the heart as I made that film. The footage of a dog meeting its death in the final minutes of the film had never been seen before. The film only shows him for about two minutes because I edited the scene down, but what was not shown was this poor dog being tortured for almost an hour. While he hung from the neck he was beaten with a bat and then set on fire – still alive – with a blowtorch. As the woman butcher roasted him alive, she laughed out loud as his live body shuddered in agony and his eyes rolled back in his head. Even several minutes later, the dog was still conscious, his ears flicking back and forth, his eyes rolling intermittently, and his mouth opening and shutting, as if screaming silent screams.
To take a film that deals with a subject like this and use it as a vehicle for your own self-promotion is beyond disgusting. To take a film about a serious subject and turn it into a joke, even a satirical joke, is appalling. Saying things like “Moron” Market is not funny, not when you’ve stood and heard the blood curdling screams of dogs begging for mercy as they die brutal deaths in front of you and you’re not able to do anything to stop it. Those poor animals don’t deserve to be the butt of stupid jokes.
And to top it all off, BOKDAYS remains on her website, touted as her property due to her producer credit, which I was never allowed to remove as promised in a written email from her to me. I did not sell the film to De Cadenet and I have never received any payment for it.
Everyone has an agenda, even people who work in the animal rights community. You might think that people who love animals would also be honest, genuine and kind-hearted individuals who always put animals first, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. The assault against my trusting nature hit me hard. It hurts to be taken advantage of and used.
So when you’re looking to get involved with a legitimate animal welfare organization, make sure to do your homework about them and research them thoroughly. There are a lot of people out there who aren’t what they seem.
After the film was launched everyone seemed to have something to say but very few people seemed to give a damn about the animals. I don’t care if the film was shown in Cannes or not, but I do care about the fate of companion animals – the dogs and cats in the live meat trade whose eyes I’ve looked into and promised to avenge by stopping this horrendous industry. I remain a frontline fighter and writer of the global dog and cat meat trade and a first response animal rescuer. I am committed to this cause in body, mind and soul. And I will not stop fighting until the dog meat trade until it is halted, even if it takes the rest of my life to see it through.
Please remember “my film” was made from my heart and with love, but it was stolen from me and is now being used against me, to promote an organisation I chose to severe all association with, for very solid reasons. I do NOT support that organisation and have nothing to do with it. I suggest anyone donating should ask what your money is being used for. I also wish to point out that I am not the only person that had property of mine stolen. A Cannes Film producer also wrote an almost identical account of how Julia had stolen her work too.
Speak Up For The Voiceless reserves the right to remove any article unless the article is non-factual. Information within this article is completely factual with evidence shown. Speak Up For The Voiceless is an environmental and animal welfare organisation that speaks up for those that have no voice. Those that suffered here are the animals and the real film producer. They had no voice - we have given their voice back to them.