When I was a kid, our neighbor, Mr. Hobbs, had a spider monkey. All the kids wanted to play with it, which was the last thing the monkey wanted. The monkey wanted out, so he ran up a mulberry tree and hopped on to the roof. Although Mr. Hobbs tried all day, the monkey wouldn’t come down; then a thunderstorm came up, and the monkey was electrocuted trying to climb the TV antenna. Lesson: Monkeys hate living in town.
Since the mid-90s, exotic pet ownership in America has steadily increased due in part to the rash of reality TV shows bringing wild animals into our homes on a nightly basis. We see them, we love them, we must have them. Come on, they’re so darn cute. Unfortunately, exotic pet ownership is a dangerous endeavor and a hot button animal rights issue. That’s why the award-winning documentary, The Elephant in the Living Room—a balanced look at the nationwide phenomena of keeping exotic animals as pets—is my third pick for TCFF 2010. In it, filmmaker Michael Webber lets the events lead the film, not vice versa.
Following animal control expert Tim Harrison into the backyards of suburbia, Webber shows us the inherent problems in the care and the feeding of wild animals. Sure, most pet owners love their wild creatures, yet owning them can be both dangerous and deadly for people and animals alike. As Harrison says, “People need to learn to enjoy animals in the wild, not in their living rooms."
In 2008, the Humane Society of the United States awarded Webber its Animal Content in Entertainment (ACE) $25,000 documentary grant to make this film. For the animals and the people who love them, it was money well spent.