Bestiality flick shocks Cannes

21st May 2007, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - A semi-documentary about a group of US men who had sex with horses has taken the title as the most shocking movie at the Cannes film festival.

CANNES, France, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - A semi-documentary about a group of US men who had sex with horses has taken the title as the most shocking movie at the Cannes film festival.

But while "Zoo" has drawn big, curious crowds at its screenings, the real unsettling quality about the movie is its approach: it depicts the men in a sympathetic light, one that tries to push the viewers to understanding their sexual perversion.

The documentary -- in which actors recreate non-explicit scenes under audio interviews with some of the men involved -- centres on a true-life incident.

In July 2005, a 45-year-old man died of internal bleeding after being anally penetrated by an Arabian stallion during a bestiality weekend in the US state of Washington.

The victim, a Boeing engineer working on top-secret defence projects named Kenneth Pinyan, suffered a perforated colon. The ensuing investigation led police -- and eventually much of the national media -- to the farm where the interaction took place, outing the other members of the group.

Independent filmmaker Robinson Devor shies away from prurient imagery, instead enveloping the story in rich photography that gives it a dreamlike beauty overwhelming the sordidness of the subject matter.

"In this film, there were things with much more importance to us than the sex aspect," he told journalists after a screening in the sidebar Directors' Fortnight section.

He said the absence of judgement was a deliberate choice, one reinforced after he watched some of the actual videos the men had taken of their horse sessions -- footage that doesn't make it into the film, apart from the barest of glimpses at one point.

"They showed us the videos not to show us pornography, but to show an animal that wanted to be with them," Devor said, though he added that he kept some scepticism about the taped acts. "We don't know what the conditioning was (for the horses)."

Many reviews have been favourable to the approach taken by Devor and his team.

"They've crafted a subdued, mysterious and intensely beautiful film that presents bestiality not for the purpose of titillation... but as a way of investigating the subjective nature of morality," the movie trade magazine Variety wrote.

*sidebar1*The men heard in the film are remarkably honest about their motivations. One of them argues "mammal to mammal" love should not be seen as wrong. Another firmly rejects the tag "bad person" his employer lays upon him before he is sacked. They all say the horses were willing participants.

Indeed, the only judgement seemingly expressed in the documentary is not on the matter in the stable at all. It is in fleeting radio references to US President George W. Bush's "war on terror" and the presumed complicity-for-profit of big companies such as Boeing.

Even the cast ended up feeling compassion for the men depicted in "Zoo".

John Paulsen, who played Pinyan, said he believed the engineer had been on a self-destructive streak linked to his defence work, a divorce and injuries from a motorcycle accident.

"Here's a man whose greatest loves in his life were so secret, so private," and who abruptly had "these great secrets in his life made so public by dying in such a public and humiliating way," he said.

But Paulsen himself acknowledged the black humour surrounding the incident, and now the film, saying that "in a way, it's a classic Western, except here it's the horse riding the man."

He added with a smile: "I call this role my 15 inches of fame."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Cannes Film Festival

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