“Zoo” is a documentary which was released in 2007, which chronicles the life and times of Kenneth Pinyan, aka, the infamous “Mr. Hands“. Pinyan was an American man, residing in Washington state, who worked as an engineer for the American Boeing. Mr. Pinyan lived a seemingly normal, uneventful life, safe for his habit of engaging in sex acts with horses, in which he enticed the animal to penetrate his anus, while others videotaped the event.
His ultimate death in January 2007 of peritonitis, as the result of one such penetration too many, resulted in a massive outbreak of controversy over the nature of what constitutes cruelty to animals, as well as the definition of “deviant” behavior in human beings.
“Zoo” caused a massive stir when it debuted publicly at the Sundance Film Festival. Subsequently, it became one of the winners. It was later selected to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival. The film contains a small amount of explicit sexual activity, but this is kept very brief and clinical, for purposes of explanation rather than titillation.
In general, the film is a simple documentary style exposition of the life and deeds of this infamous “Mr. Hands“. It focuses on his seemingly common place, bourgeois existence, rather than the deviant deeds for which he ultimately paid with his life. The film is very well put together, fully documented, and features interviews with many of his family and friends, including those who helped him document his barn yard exploits.
However, despite its depth and somewhat sympathetic portrayal of Mr. Pinyan, the film signally fails to shed much light on the deeper philosophical and moral questions involved. By its very function of essentially being an objective, clinical, exposition of Pinyan’s life and deeds, it misses the larger point: was Pinyan merely a deviant and “thought criminal”, recklessly seeking out the ultimate in depraved human kicks? Or was he, in fact, merely a neurotic, mentally aberrant individual whose friends should have encouraged to seek help, rather than enabling him to document his acts for the public’s consumption and tacit approval?
One will not find such answers when viewing “Zoo” but, perhaps, this is the very point the documentary is making. Or is it? The question of whether Mr. Hands considered his aberrant acts to be expressions of “art” is only halfheartedly addressed. Even most mainstream oriented pornography steers well clear of bestiality. The fact that Pinyan was a male engaging in the receptive, feminine role, offering his anus to the outsized phallus of one of nature’s most legendarily “well hung” animals, further clouds the issue by involving society’s attitude toward homosexuality in the matter.
“Zoo” is, for the most part, easy on the eyes, and won’t disgust the viewer with scurrilous acts of perversion and human depravity. It is well made, informative, and certainly guaranteed to be controversial. If you’re looking for something a little to the left of standard Michael Moore fare, you could do much worse than give this one a watch.