Customer Reviews: Elephant in the Living Room
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on August 24, 2011
The Elephant in the Living Room has to be one of the best documentaries made in the last 20 years. Forget about the Michael Moore's of the film industry. There are no slanted facts and slick editing in this movie. What you will see is documentary film making at its finest.

Both sides of the argument are presented here with compassion and true human emotion. From the outreach officer who, despite having had a tiger cub in his youth, seeks to provide safety for those in his state... to the troubled but warm-hearted man who fights depression with the help of his 4 year old lion who he sees as a son. If you have ever owned a pet, you will see so clearly and so poignantly where each of these men derive their passion from. This film does not seek to make either "camp" look bizarre or extremist, but presents the story with depth, truth, and palpable human emotion.

After watching the scenes where exotic pets are auctioned or sold at large markets, I found myself mesmerized and horrified. The depravity of human nature is striking and nauseating. A small child carrying an alligator, which his parents have bought for him, makes for an unforgettable scene. Monkeys, cougars, and hyenas being auctioned off in the heart of Amish country is yet another disgustingly haunting image. Contrast that with the gentleman mentioned above, who fights to keep the lions that he raises from birth, despite knowing that he can live neither with them nor without them.

This underground industry in America is exposed to the cruel light of day by The Elephant in the Living Room. And while the conclusion of the film is hopeful, the unsolvable problem created by human fascination, psychiatric illness, and greed leaves me concerned about the nightmares that will follow viewing this film. This movie is a compassionately and well made film that presents both sides of a tragic situation with care. The animals are indeed stunning and beautiful, its easy to understand why people fight to keep them as pets and family members.

In sum, this film is tragic, beautiful, compassionate, emotional, striking, devastating, and yet hopeful. I would HIGHLY recommend this film to anyone who appreciates well made movies that make you think about the state of the world we live in.
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on February 15, 2012
I saw this movie in the theater with my family. I was quite speechless at the end. It is the story of how wild animals go unregulated on many States. When they get loose it is up to authorities to chase them down and catch them. Tim Harrison is great in the film and gives us a peek at his world. Sometimes scary, sometimes heartbreaking, but never boring.

Michael Webber has done a fine job of giving us both sides of the story. We see it from Tim's side and from the side of a man who owns wild animals. A must see!
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on February 16, 2012
Such a fantastic movie that everyone should see. Wild animals should remain just that... WILD. Come on people they are not pets!!!
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on May 19, 2014
This project is quite a testament to the power of documentary cinema, introducing us to an intensely interesting story and intensely interesting characters--more compelling than almost anything found in most fictional film. Exotic animal ownership has become such a volatile topic that almost anyone focusing principally on one situation risks being accused of pronouncing judgment on the wider topic. But director Michael Webber tries, to the extent possible, to maintain objectivity and to steer clear of the wider pronouncement. Exotic animal owners have turned their cause into a civil rights issue. And traders, breeders, and profiteers have amplified that narrative to advance their own interests. On the one hand, as with gun ownership, that combination of circumstances produces a very undesirable situation in the U.S. On the other hand, the statistics prove that, left to government, industry, and the general public, some of the most majestic wild animals on earth will not be preserved and protected.

Somewhere between species extinction and household ownership of exotic animals live a few soldiers whose job it is to try to make a bad situation as good as it can be. That's where this story takes place. And Webber couldn't have found a more compelling soldier than Tim Harrison--tough but empathetic, forceful but soft-spoken, highly complex but down-to-earth. Put him together with Terry, an intriguing animal owner in Ohio and his beautiful African lions, and you have a pensive documentary that always respects its characters and subject, as well as a wonder-filled story, worth watching and re-watching, that gives us all plenty of food for thought long after the film has ended. The Elephant in the Living Room thoughtfully explores proper placement of the line between wild animals and people. But make no mistake, this isn't a scholarly tome. The filmmakers will take you on an emotional journey that will shake you--at times pleasantly and at times not. Perhaps the most instructive part of that journey is realizing that, when trying to help animals, there is often emotional pain. And our protagonists must accept in this situation, as with life, that they can solve certain problems but must also learn to live with unsolved problems.

Webber's selection of one problem-ridden case study could be (has been) criticized as advocating a position, but he also chooses not to address many problems common to owners, traders, and communities in the world of exotic animals. Ideologues on both sides may well interpret the film and its neutrality as hostility to their side. But Webber, despite slowly revealing a point of view, gives his viewers sufficient room to draw their own conclusions. One critic on this webpage, in addition to an excessive and ultra-biased critique, describes the human relationships portrayed in the story as cheesy. Tim and Terry may be imperfect individuals, but there's nothing remotely inauthentic or cheesy about either of them or the unlikely partnership that grows between the two. To fail to understand THAT is to miss a major component of the story and to show a deficit of insight into the human animal. This is a film about a true story; by definition, it's a documentary. One may not like the facts presented, but that in no way makes the film animal rights "propaganda."
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on February 17, 2012
An amazing documentary about owner's of wild animals and one man's mission to inform people about the dangers of such ownership. The animals are the subject of the controversy but the real gem in this documentary is the pet owners themselves. I began the documentary thinking it would be crazy to own a lion but when you hear these people's stories you begin to understand why they have such animals as pets. The danger and easy access of these exotic animals is also very interesting. Definitely a doc that exposes the viewers to a world I personally did not know exsisted.
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on September 11, 2011
I'm perplexed by the two negative reviews because this is a model of fairness. Yes, the film has a point of view, but it goes out of its way to present alternate opinions fairly. This is a documentary which should be taught in journalism schools.

The documentary introduces the viewer to a subject few people know about: the market for exotic animals and the popularity of people keeping them in suburban areas. The director has a point of view, but in the process, he gives opponents a chance to speak out. Although I was convinced that this is a problem, I could easily have sided with the opponents.

Very few in the media have the empathy to approach a story like this, which is why one should view this in the theater or on Amazon but one should also get a copy to study. Unfortunately, too many commentators and reporters are incapable of treating the viewer or reader with the respect for their intelligence that people deserve.

The movie presents two main characters: one, a crippled truck driver who has raised a pair of lions since they were cubs and the other, a police officer who has become an expert in handling exotic animals. Although the lion owner is not particularly articulate, you see the love he has for the lions and understand the good that the lions have done for his state of mind.

And if you ultimately come down on the side of people who want to regulate the ownership of exotic animals, that is because the spokesman for that position is an authentic American hero. He comes across as unpreposessing, looking more like a hardware store clerk than a policeman. Yet he is quite an extraordinary man. With his combination of expertise, compassioin and courage, he embodies the American spirit and reminds one of an lawman of the Old West. Even though he is a producer of the documentary and is probably shown in as positive a light as can be, the fairness with which the film treats both sides makes one truct the portrayal of the police officer.
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on February 2, 2014
Wow this is very scary. I am a very big animal lover and have always owned them , but God didn'take all creatures to be caged up to be our friends. It is very sad when people are selfish and keep wild animals in cages. I hate to go to the zoo even and see them. Please think before you purchase one of these animals to be a pet, they are not pets!
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on October 3, 2015
This movie is crazy but important. Read the one-star reviews (written by supporters of keeping wild animals) and then watch the movie. The disgusting guy they picked as the proponent was a perfect illustration of the kind of people who keep these animals. Deeply ignorant, often mentally ill, filthy in hygiene and living environment (for them AND their animals). Hidden camera footage showing HUNDREDS of red-necks at multiple trade-shows to buy these animals. Then the animals are kept in cruel environments....perfectly legally?!?! It's like those people who keep reptiles and try to tell you their snake "knows them". This guy looks at his lions living in abject filth and cruelty and talks about how much he loves them. It's sick.

There are not 2 sides to this issue. Keeping wild animals is completely ridiculous and needs to be outlawed.

The law man on the other side of the issue comes off a little weird too, but maybe that's because the film makers are trying to make a ridiculously obvious issue into a balanced 2-sided discussion.

Watch this and be informed. Then vote.
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on March 2, 2012
I loved every second of this movie. One of the best I've seen in a long time. I watched it, took it to my moms house and watched it again. I plan to visit Lacie, Tabitha and Sampson at The Wild Animal Sanctuary very soon. Thanks.
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on September 17, 2011
The Elephant In The Living Room is such an important documentary.It shows why places that are animal sanctuaries exist.There are so many people out there buying dangerous animals and reptiles with no clue as to what to do with them except thinking "I'm so cool" because I have this.Yeah they look real cool when they are in the ER dying or ripped apart because of an exotic or venomous animal or reptile got ahold of them.The exotic animal trade in this country is outrageous.If you care anything about animals you need to watch this movie.When there are more tigers in private households than in the wild,then its time for people to wake up.These animals were not put on this earth to be pets.
If you buy a predator for a pet,just remember at sometime you will become the prey.If you have any brains at all,you know the predators always win.The prey are always the food.Most of the venomous snakes that people buy have no anti-venom treatment.If you buy a venomous snake you may as well get your funeral planed and paid for also.Snakes are fast,it only takes a split second and you can be bitten.
Watch this documentary and learn.
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