“An Impeccably Made Film” – Los Angeles Times
“Alarming” … “Chilling” – The New York Times
“Documentary Gold” – Variety
With film festival honors in Boston, Chicago, New York, Burbank, and too many other places to list, The Elephant in the Living Room caught my eye. The intriguing reviews, as highlighted above, added to the interest of seeing what all the fuss is about with this new documentary from filmmaker Michael Webber. The title begs a look in and of itself, but the rest of these notable awards and reviews solidified that I had to see this movie.
Now on DVD, Elephant in the Living Room is a full-length documentary about Americans who are keeping exotic animals as family pets. We’re talking extreme wildlife: venomous snakes, jungle monkeys, wild bears, cougars, and African lions.
Webber documents this issue through the eyes of Tim Harrison and Terry Brumfeld. Harrison is a police officer who works with Outreach for Animals, a nonprofit organization that advocates for proper behavior around wildlife. Part of his job requires him to locate new homes for unwanted exotic pets and to catch escaped ones. Brumfeld is one of the owners Webber and Harrison met along their filming journey. For years, his backyard has been the home of two lions.
From the talks between Harrison and Brumfeld to the hidden camera footage taken at legal exotic pet auctions, The Elephant in the Living Room is eye-opening to say the least. You’ll be scratching your head after watching this one, unable to wrap your mind around the fact that 15,000 primates, 15,000 wildcats, 7.3 million reptiles are pets in America – and that’s just statistics for three types of the exotic pets out there.
In many states, the documentary says, there are limited restrictions on owning pets making this all very legal. Officer Harrison, as you see in the film, is solely concerned for the well-being of man and beast – as sometimes the owners are not educated as to how to care for these creatures. This can lead to owners releasing the animals, an occurrence they run into when the crew travels to Florida to investigate the python problem. Brumfeld, on the other hand, shows the pull some of these owners have to keep their wild pets.
No matter what side of the fence you may find yourself on, it’s important to know that this debate is out there, especially since most of us – including myself – didn’t know this issue was as big as it is in the United States.
Decide for yourself.
The trailer for Elephant in the Living Room...