by jason smith for FILMbutton

Rather than answer its question directly, Do Donkeys Act? answers it through a rich pastiche of images that engages the viewer emotively instead of cerebrally. Therefore, Do Donkeys Act? isn’t about facts; it’s about being. Instead of action, we have space. With dramatic – at times poetic – narration from Willem Dafoe, we begin a journey of connection with the familiar in an unfamiliar way.

Plodding along at, well, a donkey’s pace, Do Donkeys Act? achieves its connection by allowing the viewer time to feel the environment. When, for example, the handler scrubs the donkey’s head, it’s for a couple minutes. In that time, we notice the donkey’s fur; we feel its texture; we feel its response. In keeping the cinematography simple (wide shots that run long), something more becomes available. And, from what becomes available there arises questions.

As an insight into such things, Dafoe’s narration offers colourfully baroque, metaphysical musings meant more to inspire rather than simply tell. ‘A symphony of a 1000 brays echo through the chamber of dainty trots on straw and concrete floors’ and ‘Darting Donkeys… flashes of voluptuous Gestalt’ are but brief samples in the larger narrative.

Do Donkeys Act? a film by Ashley Sabin & David Redmon is neither about finding answers nor about dramatic actions. Their brays betray arcane secrets; the donkeys do not save the day; however, if you open yourself up, and pay attention, they might just save your humanity.

Jason Smith is an actor & arts aficionado who loves theatre, film and anything arts related. When he is not on a TV or film set, you might just see him in the background of the newest opera playing in Toronto.

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