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The Elephant in the Living Room (Review)

Compelling documentary looks at the rise of exotic animals as pets

By Jason Gargano · November 4th, 2010 · Movies
1 Comment

Dayton filmmaker Michael Webber makes his directorial debut with this compelling, refreshingly restrained documentary about people who possess exotic animals as pets and the various issues that arise in such cases — everything from the ethical dilemma of caging “wild” animals to the increasingly more acute problem of public safety when they escape.

[Read tt stern-enzi's interview with Webber here.]

Webber centers his narrative on a pair of Ohio men who give the issue a deeply personal perspective: Tim Harrison, a Dayton-area police officer and animal rescue expert who wants to do what's best for everyone involved (most prominently the animals), and Terry Brumfield, an endearing guy with health problems who loves his two pet lions as if they were his own children.

Webber interweaves his main twosome with news footage from various recent animal-related incidents across the country and hidden-camera excursions into the troubling world of exotic animal auctions where the planet's deadliest creatures can be purchased as suburban family pets. (While many states don't regulate the issue, Gov. Ted Strickland recently banned the keeping of exotic/wild animals as pets in Ohio.)

Contrary to the growing trend of more tactically driven, formally fussy documentaries, Webber presents the film's core issues from an objective, nonpartisan point of view. Fancy graphics and self-important grandstanding are left on the sidelines, yielding an intimate portrait of two kind-hearted men who ultimately have the same goal in mind. Grade: B

Opens Nov. 5. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.



11.05.2010 at 10:04 Reply
I am getting very tired of how the animal rights (AR) groups, most notably the H$U$, are once again exploiting the grieving family of the bear attack victim, and using this film to push for more exotic animal bans not only in Ohio, but across the USA. I am also tired of the media only publishing the sensationalized anti-exotic animal material. Not sure if your readers are even aware of it, but one of the two main stars’ of this movie, the lion owner Terry Brumfield, recently died in the unfortunate traffic accident, which was clearly not related to exotic animals, and there is barely a mention of it in the news. http://www.chillicothegazette.com/article/20100924/NEWS01/9240311 Traffic accidents kill up to 45,000 people in the USA per year, that is up to 125 per day, so I guess news gets desensitized to the ‘common’ deaths? http://www.rexano.org//Education.htm However, when a person dies in an extremely rare animal attack, it is sensationalized. The media and animal rights activists call for exotic animal bans , even though since 1990, captive bears in the USA killed a total of 5 people, that is 0.25 person per year. http://www.rexano.org//Statistics/Captive_bear_fatality.pdf So is that what matters in Ohio, HOW you die, not that you are dead??? www.REXANO.org