Filmmakers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin accomplish a couple extraordinary things with their latest documentary. The first is to tell a captivating story about one of the most maligned or at least ignored animals around: donkeys. The second is to have such a tale weaved around a piece of lengthy poetry about the creature, narrated by Willem Dafoe no less.
Indeed, Do Donkeys Act? is weird and captivating, at times haunting. It’s a quiet and steady film other than the constant braying. In fact, disregarding Dafoe’s recitation, which pops in and out casually, there is more talking between donkeys than humans.
The filmmakers are observers at various donkey sanctuaries around the world, where these abused and neglected animals are tended to and can carry on lives without being a beast of burden or a mocked ass. The camera stays on their faces at length, watching them without judgment or really much intent, other than to challenge the viewer to observe and think.
The titular question is it, more or less. Extrapolated further in the film, it is about to what extent they are thoughtful, emotional creatures. Do Donkey’s Act? is more than some campaign film about saving and regarding these animals (though it is); it’s a poetic treatise, an ode a cast aside creature.
It’s successful too. After probably some laughter and quizzical looks at the screen as to whether or not this is actually a film and it’s for real, you will undoubtedly fall in love with donkeys.