Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Zoo, a film by The Stranger columnist Charles Mudede and director Robinson Devor, and executive producers Garr Godfrey and Ben Exworthy, is a documentary on the life and death of Kenneth Pinyan, a Seattle area man who died unusually after engaging in sex with a horse. The film's public debut was at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007, where it was one of 16 winners out of 856 candidates, and played at numerous regional festivals in the USA thereafter. Following Sundance, it was also selected as one of the top five American films to be presented at the prestigious Directors Fortnight sidebar at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival

The director and festival shortlist producers describe the film as:

"The complete antithesis of what you expect ... To begin with, 'Zoo' is neither graphic nor exploitive. Most of it takes the form of recreations, but from the point of view of the men 'who met for years without disturbance in the shadows of Mt. Rainier,' as Devor puts it."
"I aestheticized the sleaze right out of it." - Devor
"This was a guy who was a conservative man at one point, and those ideas started breaking down for him. I think that 9/11 triggered a lot of it. But he was [also] in the center of one of the most secretive military complexes. Meanwhile, he listened to a lot of left-wing radio, he questioned everything our government was involved in, and he was ethically conflicted about his job and the money he was making. That's the core fascination for me." - Devor, describing his interest in the film's subject.

The film was made with co-operation of the two men who took Pinyan to the hospital, as well as other friends of his, in the attempt to explore the life and death of the man, as well as those who came to the farm near Enumclaw for similar reasons, beyond the public understanding of the media. It does contain explicit material of sexual activities, but only in the view of video footage shown on a small television screen.

The Sundance judges called it a "humanizing look at the life and bizarre death of a seemingly normal Seattle family man who met his untimely end after an unusual encounter with a horse".

"They called us and were excited about the imagery, the poetry, the experimentation with the documentary form," says Charles Mudede, the film's writer and an editor at the alternative weekly The Stranger. [...] "It's unmentionable... And then strangely, suddenly, in 2005, it becomes the talk of society. How exactly does that happen? How do we go from something being utterly hidden from view, and then suddenly we're consumed with it and so upset by it we need to pass a law?"