Film Reviews

Review: ‘Do Donkeys Act?’

Hot Docs 2017

Courtesy of Hot Docs


Do Donkeys Act?
(UK, 72 min.)
Dirs. David Redmon & Ashley Sabin
Programme: World Showcase (North American Premiere)

Portraying donkeys on their own terms, David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s Do Donkeys Act? looks to challenge our perception of these creatures. Shot over five years in donkey sanctuaries in England, Ireland, Canada, and the United States, the film is poetically narrated by Willem Dafoe, and its ornate prose provides insight on new ways of considering donkeys. Examining and breaking down the stereotypes we have surrounding the donkey, from stubborn to foolish, we are invited to re-examine the animals through a gaze not tainted by human bias.

In this doc, our conception of “donkey” is challenged. Attacked and neglected, the donkeys in the sanctuaries depicted are roughly cared for by human attendants. Subjugated first to the humans who violently abused them, they are now subjected to the humans who must help them heal. Redmon and Sabin take the bold stance, then, of not subjugating the donkeys to cinema: they walk through scenes, ignore framing, and their behaviour is enigmatic. Whenever a chance to interpret them presents itself, the narration sets us in the right direction, telling us the not presume or place human standards upon the donkey. Their representation is questioned, and so is human superiority.

Do Donkeys Act champions the donkey, taking the animals from their position of lowly beast, and elevating them as unique artists. Their behaviour is argued to be thoughtful rather than imbecilic. Their brays are symphonies, not obnoxious. No longer undignified, in this doc, donkeys take centre stage to demonstrate their beauty, intelligence, and resilience. Sensitive without being sentimental, and objective without lacking analysis, Do Donkeys Act is a remarkable work of anti-anthropocentrism, subverting human presumptions and power to glorify donkeys in a unique way.

Do Donkeys Act screens:
-Thursday, April 27 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 7:00 PM
-Friday, April 28 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 3:30 PM
-Sunday, May 7 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 8:30 PM

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