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Originally published Sunday, December 3, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Danny Westneat

New movie is the spawn of horse sex

Some will say it was inevitable. Obvious, even. But I never saw this one coming. I'm talking about horse sex, the movie. You all remember that...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Some will say it was inevitable. Obvious, even. But I never saw this one coming.

I'm talking about horse sex, the movie. You all remember that story from the summer of 2005. You can deny it, but I know you remember: A man died from a ruptured colon after having sex with a horse in a barn outside Enumclaw.

The story became an international, Web-driven phenomenon. The Seattle Times' stories about it, though tantalizingly devoid of details, nevertheless became the most-read material in the paper's history.

Everyone had the same headshaking questions, mostly about the logistics of the act itself.

It turns out two Seattle filmmakers had questions, too. They drove out to Enumclaw one day. They were struck by the beauty of the place. It seemed at odds with the secretive, nocturnal society that had just been exposed there.

"By then the whole story had been reduced to joke fodder," says Robinson Devor, 43. "It made me wonder whether there might not be a more complex side to it all."

Against most advice — and, really, all sense — they set out to make a feature-length documentary about a circle of acquaintances drawn together by an unspeakable interest in sex with animals.

Astonishingly, the film appears to be succeeding. It was bought by a New York distributor, THINKFilm. Last week it was one of 16 documentaries accepted to the Sundance Film Festival (out of 856 submitted). It premieres in January.

It's called "Zoo," short for zoophilia. That means "abnormal fondness for animals."

The director, Devor, is quick to dispel the obvious worry.

"No, there's no horse sex in it," he says. "If anyone goes to our movie hoping to see horse sex, they will be greatly disappointed."

The Sundance judges called it a "humanizing look at the life and bizarre death of a seemingly normal Seattle family man who met his untimely end after an unusual encounter with a horse."

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"They called us and were excited about the imagery, the poetry, the experimentation with the documentary form," says Charles Mudede, the film's writer and an editor at the alternative weekly The Stranger.

"We didn't want to focus on the tawdriness. That had been done. We wanted to look dispassionately into a world that exists here, but prior to this case few had ever known about."

Two friends of the man who died cooperated with the filmmakers, including one who was there and drove him to the hospital. Their voices narrate much of the film, describing the paths they took in life to end up in the orbit of that Enumclaw-area barn.

A third narrator is a woman who runs Hope for Horses, a Woodinville nonprofit. She rescued some of the horses once the sex ring was exposed.

State Sen. Pam Roach also appears, talking about the anti-bestiality law she drafted after the Enumclaw incident.

Mudede said he became fascinated by the notion that sex with animals was perfectly legal here. In more than a century of statehood, it either had never come up or, when it had, people were simply too embarrassed to do anything about it.

"It's unmentionable," Mudede said. "And then strangely, suddenly, in 2005, it becomes the talk of society. How exactly does that happen? How do we go from something being utterly hidden from view, and then suddenly we're consumed with it and so upset by it we need to pass a law?"

From what I gather — I was shown only five minutes of unfinished footage — the movie doesn't answer these questions so much as mull them.

I called the filmmakers to pose a simpler one: Why? Why make a feature-length movie about horse sex?

"It's not a movie about horse sex. That's the point," Devor says. "I guess I'm hoping that by looking at this sensationalized story more closely, at parts of it that people haven't heard, that people will find some universal human sentiment in it."

I told Devor: If you can find universal humanity in that story, you can find it anywhere.

And to those of you who are about to call me to say these filmmakers are slumming and the idea of a movie on horse sex is absurd: Yeah, I know none of you will go see it.

Just as none of you read all those stories about the Enumclaw case. Or greedily followed this long article about it down to the very ... last ... word.

Danny Westneat's column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com.

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About Danny Westneat

Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to dwestneat@seattletimes.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
dwestneat@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2086

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