Sundance Film Festival

Update: Shock Docs? Zoo And Manda Bala (send A Bullet)

UPDATE: A limited release of MANDA BALA debuted in theatres this past summer. With limited theatrical debuts in New York and Los Angeles in April and May, respectively, ZOO has stirred up quite a bit of talk. “ZOO is a cool sensibility married to a hot topic, a poetic film about a forbidden, unsettling subject.” – Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times)

See original blog post below.

Park City, Jan. 22. Across the blogosphere, two documentaries are creating quite a stir. Jason Kohn’s MANDA BALA (SEND A BULLET) is quickly becoming, as Jason Guerrasio [www.filmmakermagazine.com] at Filmmaker Magazine so aptly put it, “Number One with a Bullet.” The other documentary, Robinson Devor’s ZOO, has taken a scandalous story and turned it into a probing meditation on nature and man’s relation to it

Stunningly shot in Super 16 with a gorgeous soundtrack, MANDA BALA stitches together disparate elements of contemporary Brazil — a plastic surgeon helps kidnap victims with severed ears, a corrupt politician who funneled millions into a frog farm, the booming business in bulletproofing cars, the rise of hired helicopters around Sao Paulo — to illustrate the ecology of crime. Kohn, who started the film during various trips to Brazil, eventually became interested in how the “rich stole from the poor, and the poor from the rich.” Pulling from a range of stories, Kohn subtly shows how an act of political corruption in the north forces poor people to migrate to the south, where some begin a life of crime to survive. And then how those acts of violence push the rich to take back even more. For Steve Ramos at IndieWIRE: [www.indiewire.com] “Manda Bala” is spider web moviemaking in the spirit of a Samba dance [in which] everything connects with crystal clarity.”

ZOO, made by the filmmaking duo of director Robinson Devor and writer Charles Mudede, came in to the festival with the highest “ick” factor. Or as the Seattle Times pointedly asked: “Can you believe they made a movie about the Enumclaw incident?” The Enumclaw Incident, for those who don’t know, began on July 2, 2005 when a man died at a local hospital from a perforated colon caused from a sexual encounter with an Arabian stallion, and ended with a nationwide scandal that uncovered a zoophile group that met at a local ranch. But the film, that plays edited interviews of real people over haunting recreated footage, is never prurient or scandalous. Instead, as Scott Foundas [www.variety.com] of Varietyput it, Zoo is “a breathtakingly original nonfiction work.”

Peter Bowen

Senior Editor, Filmmaker Magazine