Elephant in the Living Room
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Praised by critics as one of the best films of the year, The Elephant in the Living Room takes viewers deep inside the controversial subculture of raising the most dangerous animals in the world, as common household pets. Set against the backdrop of a heated national debate, director Michael Webber chronicles the extraordinary journey of two men at the heart of the issue - Tim Harrison, a police officer whose friend was killed by an exotic pet; and Terry Brumfield, a big-hearted man who struggles to raise two African lions. In the first of many unexpected twists, the lives of these two men collide when Terry's male lion escapes its pen and is found attacking cars on a nearby highway. Winner of 5 Best Documentary Awards, the film exposes the shocking reality behind this multi-billion dollar industry with stunning photography, inspiring storytelling and unprecedented access to a world rarely seen, right in our backyard.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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."
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.