There are documentaries that enlighten us to various causes, and or plights. Then there are documentaries that one does not know what to make of. This is such a documentary, introducing us to an incident that happened in 2005. Zoo was directed by Robinson Devor.
I was channel surfing and came across this documentary on the Sundance channel, the description of the film caught my attention and seriously wondered how the director came up with the idea. Zoo begins with a narrator by the name of “Coyote” stating that there wasn’t much to do in rural West Virginia, and that there wasn’t much to experience as far as culture. All along are a series of vivid shots with a hint of a blue filter, telling the story. Coyote continues about how the Internet changed his life and introduced him to the world, and more particular to the world of zoophilia, or bestiality. This is where the documentary takes a disturbing turn when he moves to Washington and we are introduced to other anonymous characters.
The whole documentary is narrated by different men by anonymous names dues to the taboo subject. The interviews and scenes are re-enacted as well. Coyote describes how he was never interested in interaction with people. His affinity was being with and caring for animals. He asks, “why am I this way?” and says “there has to be a purpose.” He also calls his affinity “zoo,” or “being zoo”, as in zoophilia. Another character, “The Happy Horseman,” intercedes and says how the Internet had a huge impact on introducing him to other people like him. This is where it is revealed that these men were part of a group. He goes on to say that the group consisted of many nationalities and from different countries. He reveals how this fetish is relatively common, but very underground. “H” describes how he worked on a horse ranch for a family. When his secret was revealed, he was fired. “H” was the most disturbing, describing how he treated his horses like royalty, how they ate before he did. He goes on to say that he loved his horses, more than he loved anyone. “Its like when you love your wife, or your kids, it’s the same thing.” The consensus was that the Internet was the catalyst for bringing the group together.
This documentary slowly unveils the story about a man who was known as “Mr. Hands” who died after being sexually involved with a horse. This created a whirlwind of controversy in the Seattle area. He was part of the infamous group of men that got together to appreciate horses, and partook in perverse acts with horses on a farm. According to the news release of the film by Think Films Company, “the film explores the ensuing media coverage and public outcry that uncovered a secret community of apparently upstanding citizens who share this extreme and exotic appetite, revealing the enormous gulf between what we appear to be and who we really are.”
Little by little the group reveals how they would have meetings that were similar to potlucks. All the men confided in each other and spoke freely about their feelings for each of their horses. They all admit to making videos of each other and would watch and compare them at these meetings.
One night at one of these meetings, something went wrong. “Mr. Hands” was dropped off at an emergency room. Hospital cameras caught his fellow member’s license plate number. To make things worse, one of the men who helped also dropped his wallet at the hospital. “Mr. Hands” suffered a perforated colon and bled internally.
The story came out that a man died after being with an animal. The media took over this story and it spread like wild fire. The group learns of their friend’s death and scramble to destroy all videos, and pictures. Efforts to destroy all evidence is futile, police manage to confiscate a large amount of videos and pictures featuring “Mr. Hands” and other members of the group. No charges were ever filed against any of the men in the group because bestiality was not illegal in the state of Washington at the time. The men’s’ reputations are forever soiled and most of them lose their jobs and have to give up their horses to various animal organizations. Soon after this incident, in Seattle, it is now illegal to engage in any sexual acts with animals. Before the credits role at the end, a factoid says that one man has been charged since the law being enacted.
Aside from the disturbing subject, the cinematography is unbelievable. The way the scenes are shot so clearly and the use of filters is what caught my attention the most. The story relies on the imagery, because the interviews are audio only. According to Devor in the production notes for Think Films, he wanted to tell the story that educated people rather than sensationalize it like the media did. He felt a real sympathy for “Mr. Hands. I wouldn’t recommend this film to just anyone, it is disturbing to hear these men talk about “loving” horses. The film itself doesn’t show anything distasteful. I don’t really know what to make of this film, other than it was the strangest that I have ever seen. According to the Internet Movie Database, this film debuted at Sundance and was selected to be presented at Cannes in 2007. I think the purpose was mainly to inform people of this life style. There is also a philosophical tone emanated from the film. At one point religion is mentioned by one of the men, and he says, “you put religion aside.” As if in the back of his mind he new that what he was doing was wrong, or not normal. People would have their own interpretations of this film. I’m left curious as to what others would think.