Susan M. Carr
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30th Jun 08
Plot Zoo is a documentary about a Seattle man, Kenneth Pinyan, referred to here as Mr. Hands, and his small band of buddies, who prefer the object of their affections to be on four legs and well-hung. This is not some doggy-styled gay combo, but a group of fellas that get their rocks off by fondling horse’s private bits and calling it ‘love’. Unfortunately for this small group, their little habit hit the news in 2005 when Mr. Hands died as a result of injuries from his neighing sexual partner, the appropriately named ‘Bull’s-eye’ deciding to play ‘hide-the-sausage’ in Mr. Hands’ anus….and no, I am not making this up! Read on!
At the start the film, as the events mentioned above are recounted to the viewer, there were times where this reviewer caught himself laughing out loud. Such mirth was not the result of feeling uncomfortable with the subject material, but more down to his immaturity and getting used to the fact that what he was hearing wasn’t made up, and that no one was going to appear onscreen and say, ‘Fooled you’! Indeed once the reviewer had settled into the groove, he was a little taken aback by how delicately and un-sensationalistic such subject matter had been transferred to the screen.
That such a taboo subject has been treated so sensitively, rather than in a tabloid-fashion, is surprising in this day and age, more so that the film paints the guys/’zoo’ at the centre of the incident coming off as sympathetic rather than mucky little perverts. This approach might not sit well with all those who watch Zoo, especially those more likely to see such a subject matter hammered home as being BAD on a Jerry Springer off-shoot.
The viewer is carefully manipulated into feeling that what’s going on here between man and horse is actually ok and that no harm is being done to the animal. The movie isn’t about analysing the group of men’s behaviour, instead they generally let the facts speak for themselves. The movie is invested more in the emotional tone rather than making judgements about the people. There are no knee-jerk reactions.
Known as the 2005 Enumclaw Horse Sex Incident (why a year in front? Is it an annual thing or something?), it concerns around half a dozen men who first shared their common interest through the internet, before meeting up occasionally to visit a farm, just outside of Seattle, to indulge their passion and sometimes video it. Surprisingly what they were doing was not considered illegal at the time, so no one was charged.
It may not come as a surprise to discover that many of the subjects involved in the case, insisted on anonymity, so the movie tackles the facts through re-enactment (don’t worry not of THAT) along with audio interviews, and the following three people appearing as themselves – Coyote, Jenny Edwards, John Edwards. There is a video tape that is watched at one point, but fortunately you don’t get to see any such activity, although part of you is kind of straining to see if there is. There is a graphic videotape of the events, which has apparently been circulated through the internet – perhaps it’s available on the released disc as an extra.
The movie, originally to be entitled In the Forest there is Every Kind of Bird, was directed by Robinson Devor and co-written by Charles Muded, his co-writer from 2005’s Police Beat, an early reporter on the actual horse-sex incident. Their film is extraordinarily well photographed by cinematographer Sean Kirby, and is exquisite in the way it fills the screen.
It’s interesting how a filmmaker can take such a taboo subject and make such a gorgeous looking film out of it, without ever once glorifying the animals or presenting them in a manner that would border on bad taste. Great care is taken to present horses as the fine looking species they are.
Devor allows the viewer to look at the world from the perspective of a member of such a zoo, getting across how the members of such a group consider what they do to be normal, and round them out by showing that outside of their particular sexual leanings, they are just like you and me. Even the horse rescuers Jenny and John Edwards overcome their initial shock at what goes on and begin to lean towards a more measured opinion of the zoo.
Zoo raises an interesting, if not completely convincing, argument in that no one bats an eye when it comes to animals being caged, with little or no freedom in zoos, or chopped up for hamburgers, so where’s the problem with people having sex with them?
There is some amusement to be had later on in the film, when Jenny Edwards from organization ‘Hope for Horses’ is shocked when the Arabian Stallion behind all the fuss, Bull’s-eye is fellated by a donkey. For someone that loves horses (platonically I hasten to add) where’s the surprise in seeing such behaviour? I’ve seen plenty of gee-gees do the same thing when visiting the New Forest.
The film is to be applauded for treating such a sensational incident with a soft voice. Its passive styling, with cold blue visuals and hypnotic score, is not as you’d expect from a film that ultimately about a man dying from the injuries caused by a horse’s naughty bits up his bum. It presents situation and allows the viewer to digest the facts, all the while coercing you with the soft voice in which it speaks that what these guys do is not necessarily for up to us to necessarily judge.