The Elephant in the Living Room Michael Webber

The Elephant in the Living Room Michael Webber
The explosion of reality TV has created an insatiable appetite for crazy people doing crazy things, and while the candy-coated sound bite aesthetic of easily digestible televised tranquilizers might not fly in the feature-length documentary format, the medium is still readily able to reveal unconventional oddball behaviour. In The Elephant in the Living Room, the eccentricity on display is the bizarre human compulsion to keep potentially dangerous wild animals as pets. The film follows hybrid police officer/fireman/paramedic Tim Harrison, who works in the Dayton, OH area and specializes in capturing and repatriating wild animals. If The Elephant in the Living Room is anything to go by, Dayton is a hotbed of kooky folks who just aren't satisfied with dogs or goldfish. Tim's adventures lead him to encounters with gigantic snakes, runaway lizards and irritable monkeys, and the eye-popping encounters are enough fodder for ten episodes of Dirty Jobs. The Elephant in the Living Room specifically focuses on one exotic enthusiast – a tragic character named Terry Brumfield – who just happens to have two full-grown African lions (and eventually some impossibly cute lion cubs) in his backyard. Filmmaker Michael Webber spent nearly two years covering Terry's saga and Tim's efforts to move the animals to a safer habitat. Terry clearly loves his animals, and they act as a form of therapy for him as he struggles with the mental and physical after-effects of an auto injury. It's a testament to the power of the film, and Webber's dedication, that he comes off as completely sympathetic despite his untenable position. The DVD package also includes an unconventional behind-the-scenes featurette in which Webber, Harrison and gigantic animal wrangler Russ Clear hang out around a campfire swapping stories and answering viewers' questions (assumingly submitted during festival screenings). This lends an even greater informality and intimacy to the film, as well as some interesting deleted scenes. (Edify Media)