Movie Review: “The Elephant in the Living Room”

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Watching this documentary was a very eye-opening experience. The use of the idiom “the elephant in the room” seems appropriate as the title to this film.

When one uses that phrase, it means there is an issue in plain sight that people choose to ignore or never discuss in public.  The “issue” depicted in this documentary is having exotic animals as pets; an obvious problem that many people, including the government, choose to skip around.

Filmmaker, Michael Webber, in his documentary film, The Elephant in the Living Room, opens his audience’s eyes the full extent of the situation that exists still today. Weber uncovers hard, cold facts from archived news footage of loose exotic pet attacks and documentary footage of interviews with the police, a veterinarian and the pet owners themselves.

The film focuses on Officer Tim Harrison, an Ohio police officer and animal lover Terry Brumfield. After watching this film, it’s hard to believe there are thirty states that allow exotic pet ownership including lions, tigers and bears, and that nine of those states don’t require permits or licenses.

Weber films Officer Harrison attending an exotic reptile expo where hundreds of people shop at different booths for a variety of reptiles including the dangerous Burmese python, the Gaboon viper and puff adders. The puff adder is one of the most deadly snakes in Africa and yet they are being sold as though they are a vegetable at a farmers market.

Officer Harrison has devoted many years of his life towards protecting these exotic pets and the public. He discusses how he has spent his career as an officer capturing, raising and rescuing literally hundreds of venomous snakes, as well as crocodiles, pythons, tigers, cougars and primates.

According to sources, through his efforts, he has been able to increase awareness of exotic pets by writing books and producing movies about them and he has appeared on most major television networks.

Although reporting on a controversial subject, Weber is able to keep the film balanced and objective still making it clear that it is the owner’s responsibility to take care of these animals.

Animal lover, Brumfield has developed a deep and strong connection with his two pet lions whom he has hand-raised and bottle fed since he received them as cubs. Weber documents Brumfield’s life with his lions and interviews him throughout the film.

The Elephant in the Living Room is a heart-warming, yet shocking reality story that is neither accusing nor aggressive, but acts as a simple way of informing the public on the realities of exotic pet ownership. It is expected be released in San Diego at the Regal Theater in Horton Plaza on April 15.

Photos by Michael Weber courtesy of The Elephant in the Living Room.

Video by ElephantLivingRoom via Youtube

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