Sunday, February 4, 2007

'Round the Zoo: Part Four

A Chat With Robinson Devor


Enumclaw is located in western Washington State, approximately 45 miles
southeast of Seattle, and beautifully situated in the foothills of Mount Rainier.
With a current population of 11,220, Enumclaw has retained its small town
character while benefiting from the growth of the surrounding region.
-- City of Enumclaw Website


Part Four: We Are Not Who We Appear to Be (for part three, click here)

Do you mostly focus on this one guy? It sounds like that's not the case.

He's not the main--he's not the only part of the film... I have
no problem saying that he is somewhat of a hero to me.

Taken out of context, it would sound like you're trying to provoke people by
saying that. One thing I thought about when I first heard the story was The
Last Picture Show
. There's the movie, but then there's the book. There's an
incident in the book, which of course Peter Bogdanovich didn't put in the
movie--and there's no reason that he should have--but the boys in Larry
McMurtry's book all have sexual relations with a sheep. That's just what
they do. Then at the University of Washington several years ago [1990],
the school cracked down on a fraternity [Theta Xi] because the pledges
were required to service a sheep. My point is that this kind of thing isn't as
unusual as people like to pretend it is. It happens, and it's always gonna happen.

Did you ever see [Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's] Brother's Keeper?

***spoiler alert***

I haven't, but I'm dying to see it. I just haven't gotten around to it.

[I ordered the film shortly after our conversation.]

It's the same thing you're talking about.

Brother's Keeper (1992)
Doesn't one brother kill the other?
Yeah, one kills the other. Eventually, you find out that the brothers have been sleeping together--they're a bit slow--they're like 16 years old [mentally]. So, they [the cops] thought that it was a sordid, sexual, revenge killing or some weird thing.
I thought it was a sympathy killing.
No, that was the conclusion. The brother was sick, and these guys living on a farm, they put down an animal that's suffering. The great thing about it was that the community was saying, you know, the reality is that there are a lot of gay farm
people, there are a lot of brothers and sisters who grew up sleeping in the same
bed and they have sex together. It's nobody's damn business. That happens,
and so what. These guys were good--they were totally nice people--and sexuality
is a private thing. It's not a big deal. That, to me, is what you're saying. This
[the Enumclaw Horse Case] is also an incident, and perhaps it will take some time.
It's a metaphorical incident that can show America in terms of its reactions to it,
and so it's a very big thing. America as a metaphor is a very easy, malleable metaphor. You can move it around in many different ways, but that's a whole
other thing. What you're saying is essentially true. Maybe some people if they
saw this story would think it was blown way out of proportion. We'll see...
It reminds me of some of the things that happen in the books of
Cormac McCarthy, since he's always writing about farm hands, cowboys.
Everything's kind of noirish, but he's not a moralist.

What do you mean?
People do all these bad things, and all these bad things happen to them.
I read Outer Dark recently, and it's just one bad thing after another, but it never feels moralistic. It doesn't feel like they're asking for it, these people, even
though there's this totally incestuous relationship. It's kind of a tricky thing.
I think he's touching on some of the same things you're talking about.

This story has been a challenge, because I'm very sensitive to the privacy--not only of the person who died--but of the people who were friends with him, the people who took him to the hospital, the people who knew him. They went by internet names, such as the Happy Horseman, Coyote, Firedog, so we're using nicknames. I think people will find associations to the actual incident. It's a very fine line, it's a very difficult project. I mean, we certainly have the right to--we have people telling the story from their point of view. Even the town, the place, is still upset that this happened there. They're very unwilling to talk about the incident. We understand that. We understand that there's a lot at stake there--it's a horse community--so we're doing everything we possibly can. In a way, it actually is exciting to us, because instead of saying, On July 2nd, 2005, three men left their home in Enumclaw and tresspassed... Instead what we're doing, which I like so much more, is, On a warm summer night in the Northwest region, under the shadow of Mount Rainier, three men... You know what I'm saying? It's much more interesting to keep it general.
It sounds more like a western.
Or a fairy tale or a horror story.
The line between westerns and noirs is thinner than [most] people realize.
Oh, it is. So, that's kind of the way we're trying to do it.
I'm sure people will know what we're talking about.
Maybe not so much outside of the Northwest. I could be wrong.
There are a lot of things still to be ironed out. Well again, the really original thing that I was very drawn to was--this man was humiliated--is it possible to resurrect his reputation as a good person? And that was the whole thing for the longest time. Like, what a great mission, right--to do that, to ask about that. And the funny thing is that we didn't have a lot of luck with certain people coming forward--family, people he worked with--to say good things about him and stuff. I understand that, but his acquaintances came forward, and they talk about him on a certain level...
Do you show their faces?
That's a whole other strategy. I'll tell you about that [later]. What we learned was--and that's just the way life is--is that there was no portrait of a man who was this perfectly sweet guy, who was loved by everybody and just happened to like horses. That's not who this person was. This person was portrayed, from what I've heard,
as a troubled guy. A good guy, a smart guy, a responsible person, but depressed and seeking, seeking something--seeking happiness, seeking relief from his depression and his pain. And so things changed a bit. It became a much more compelling story... I can't really even get into that in the film. I can only hint at things and try to get to the soul of the story. We're definitely not bulldog journalists that are going after this exposé or this procedural of this happened and then this. We're trying to use film as a way to convey what happened and what...things were going through the minds of the people involved--that's all we're trying to do.
Zoo poster
Next: Paradise Lost

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