New York Times - 04/24/2007
"A startling real-life story....ZOO is nothing if not artful..."
Sight and Sound - 03/01/2008
"[ZOO is about] notions of morality and acceptable social norms. Devor tries to get inside the minds of the people involved..."
Empire - 07/01/2008
"[A] compelling documentary....ZOO is an admirable attempt to de-sensationalize a tragedy..."
One of the many challenges of documentary filmmaking can often be how to present shocking or outrageous events without sensationalizing them. With ZOO, film writers Robinson Devor and Charles Mudede certainly had their work cut out for them. In 2006, a news story broke that a man in Washington state had died while trying to have sex with a horse. Using a rather unconventional documentary style, Devor and Mudede decided to explore the incident, and delve into the secretive subculture of zoophilia. Foregoing the traditional interview techniques generally favored in documentaries, the film is composed almost entirely of scene reenactment, with actors standing in for all of the key players. The real people involved would lend only their taped voices, as they did not wish for their true identities to be revealed.
Visually, the film is quite beautiful, and flows across the screen with a dreamy, ethereal quality. Scenes are often shaded in deep violets and midnight blues, and the many shadowed, slow motion shots move as though underwater. Contrary to what one might expect, it is devoid of graphic imagery (save for one extremely brief scene), and anyone interested for shock value alone will be greatly disappointed. However, those wishing to learn more about the psychology of zoophilia will also find the film lacking. Rather than educate its audience, the film's sole purpose seems to be to humanize the people involved, and to ask for empathy. This is a noble enough goal, and one that the filmmakers achieve to a certain degree. However, by the film's end, the world of zoophiliacs still feels cloaked in mystery. If their lives are lived in shadow, ZOO doesn't do much in the way of shedding any light. Viewers will doubtless be stirred emotionally by the film, but they are likely to walk away with more questions than answers.
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