Charles Mudede, associate editor at Seattle's Stranger newspaper, first wrote about the Enumclaw, Washington, horse-sex case in a 2006 article entitled "The Animal in You". The story, for those who missed it, went like this: in July 2005, a Boeing aerospace engineer was rushed to the hospital, bleeding internally from a perforated colon. After his death, it was revealed that the man had sustained his injuries due to being anally penetrated by a horse, known to him and a select group of friends as Big Dick. This small group of men–zoophiles–had met over the Internet and had been meeting at a barn in rural Washington state for some time; bestiality was not illegal at the time. To their dismay, laws were created banning human-animal sex shortly after the story broke.
Mudede, in his article, was philosophical about the case. "It exposed to me how laws and values are sort of invented," the African-born writer explained to the Straight by phone. "We're appalled, but laws are not natural; they're events that have dates and times and are not eternal." Although the article is darkly funny, the zoophiles involved in the case nonetheless found Mudede "one of the more sympathetic" members of the press, and contacted him to set the record straight.
Thus began a dialogue central to the making of Zoo, a feature-length documentary largely based on hours of interviews that filmmaker Robinson Devor–who had previously collaborated with Mudede on 2005's Police Beat–conducted with the group of men.
Though Mudede, as screenwriter, helped structure and plan the film, he was not involved in the audio interviews. "I had kind of a bad reputation for being the cynical one of the two," he says with a chuckle. "I wasn't as sympathetic. I'm someone who would laugh at himself and the things that I do and believe, but if you have that kind of attitude with someone who is having sex with a horse, they're going to be a little sensitive. In fact, you should be laughing if you're engaged in sex with a woman! I would laugh at it, you know: 'Oh, she sucked my dick! She put her tongue around my cock! That's bizarre and hilarious!'" Mudede says, gleefully. "I mean, of all the things you could put on your tongue!"
Zoo, which runs at the Vancity Theatre from Friday to Tuesday (August 17 to 21), deals with its potentially sensationalistic subject matter in a surprisingly sensitive and tasteful manner. There is no footage of animals being abused; the film focuses more on the people involved and the unfolding of the case than it does on sex. Most of the images, shot in a dreamlike and impressionistic fashion by Police Beat cinematographer Sean Kirby, are reenactments. (Most of the zoophiles did not want to appear before the camera.) The film ran in the documentary category at the Sundance Film Festival and has been well received on the whole, with some exceptions; novelist and Film Comment critic Gary Indiana has attacked it for its perceived sympathy to the zoophiles.
Sympathy for zoophilia was not on Mudede's agenda, however. "I wanted to make a way to say, 'Okay, this is why I disagree with them, and it's not because of something that popped up out of my upbringing, out of my customs.' It was something to say, 'Well, I actually listened to them,' you know? 'I heard what they had to say, and let me tell you, this is why I can't agree with this, it's because this and this didn't add up”¦'"
For those curious about Mudede's reason for disagreeing with horse-fucking, it has nothing to do with what he refers to as the "racket" of consensuality–a side issue for him. "I couldn't really think of how we, as humans, had sat down to really think about our relationships with animals. We can say homosexuality is fine, and to me, that's absolutely agreeable, because they're human, and I don't eat them." Animals, however, are another matter. "If you're going to tell me about having sex with animals that I eat, or ride, or whatever–cows, horses–we enter a fantastically new territory of value-making, of actual value creation. You're asking me to change some fundamental habits that I have.”¦Until that issue is dealt with, I can't agree with it."
Charles Mudede will attend the Saturday (August 18) screenings of Zoo at the Van city Theatre (1181 Seymour Street).