Postcards from the Zoo is wonderfully odd, filmed mostly in a zoo in Jakarta, in Indonesia. The zoo is also a funfair and has a lot of life size sculptures of large animals. In fact, at first, when the scene showed pelicans feeding amongst the feet of statues of elephants I thought for a moment that we were seeing a zoo of the future, when, all animals being extinct, zoos become sculpture parks.
Lana grew up in the zoo, having been abandoned there by her father and lives there with zoo employees, homeless people and some people who love the zoo so much they can't bear to leave. Lana is really busy round the zoo and has a wonderful rapport with the animals, there are lovely scenes of her and the giraffe (and whatever your views on animals in captivity, there is something immensely touching about seeing a trusting relationship between human and animal.)
One day everyone except official zoo employees is evicted from living in the zoo. It's a surprise to the viewer that Lana isn't an official employee, but she too is evicted and runs off with a strange magician who dresses as a cowboy. They do magic tricks for people until the magician himself disappears, leaving Lana lost in the wilds of Jakarta and offered lodging in a massage parlour on condition that she becomes a worker there. She seems to adapt quite well from washing down large mammals to massaging large men. but it is clear that she feels that the zoo is her natural habitat.
Bestiaire also focuses on animals in captivity. It is filmed mostly in Quebec's Parc Safari, both in the fields where the animals wander with a lot of freedom and the cramped internal cages, with concrete floors and metal bars. It is very upsetting to see zebras, lions and hyenas, animals used to wandering the vast African savannahs bashing themselves against cage bars.
The film looks at animals through the eyes of artists, zoo-keepers, zoo visitors, taxidermists and of course the camera. It is a mostly beautiful meditation of our relationship with captive animals, a very thought provoking film.
These films are part of Edinburgh International Film Festival and can be seen at:
Postcards from the Zoo: 20:00, 29 June; 15:30, 1 July both in Filmhouse 2.
unfortunately there are no more public screenings of Bestiaire.
Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attend free press screenings of the films I review.
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