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Film to focus on aftermath of Enumclaw incident

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Director hoping to look at bigger picture, shed light on culture

By Shawn Skager

The Courier-Herald

The city of Enumclaw popped up on the national media radar in July 2005, courtesy of a bizarre incident in which a Gig Harbor man died after sexual relations with a horse at a nearby stable.

The incident spurred a stampede of media attention on the city, including a national magazine article.

Now the incident, which resulted in the death of a middle-aged Boeing engineer from acute peritonitis after his colon was perforated during intercourse with a horse, will be heading to the silver screen. A movie is now in production by Seattle independent film director Robinson Devor.

Devor said the documentary, “In The Forest There is Every Kind of Bird,” is not just about the incident.

“Its covers everything from the cultural influence of the incident to the rescue of the horses involved to the humanizing of the deceased,” he said by e-mail. “In general, though, the public mockery, hatred and humiliation seemed too one-sided. We felt that some of the people involved in the incident never had the opportunity to tell their side of the story.

“There will be no sensational or sordid re-enactments,” he added. “Some people will play themselves, some will only be heard and not seen.”

Co-writer Charles Mudede said the movie will take a deeper look at the incident's aftermath.

Mudede - a journalist for The Stranger, a weekly newspaper in Seattle that extensively covered the case - said his interest and the film's focus is aimed more at the response, which included local legislator Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, sponsoring and passing a bill outlawing bestiality in Washington state.

Prior to the incident bestiality was not illegal.

“The Enumclaw police didn't have anyplace to turn, they couldn't charge anyone because it wasn't illegal,” Mudede said.

The only charges filed in the case were against James Michael Tait, an Enumclaw man who pled guilty to trespassing after it was discovered he was present and videotaping during the incident. Tait received a one-year suspended sentence, a $300 fine, and was ordered to perform eight hours of community service.

“It's interesting to us because it's a cultural area,” Mudede said. “The death changed the culture of the state. The senators came in and changed the law. The real interest is when do we make the law? It takes something as bizarre as horse sex to produce and reveal the process of the law and how we as people make laws.

“We always see laws there when we're born,” he continued. “They're already there and we accept them. We can't have sex with someone under the age 16. And we accept that. That's the law. This is a chance to see the moment, see who's gathered here at this site of crisis.”

Geographically, Mudede said the film will not be photographed in Enumclaw and will instead focus on the Internet bestiality community that was revealed after the case.

“It's not really about Enumclaw,” Mudede said. “It's not about the city. It's just a place that this happened. The Internet was really the focus of this thing. We're focused on the Internet as the location of this.

“They came from all over, Portland, Seattle, even as far as Ireland,” he said.

“The story is much more about people than a specific place,” Devor said. “Also, we are bending over backwards to keep specific names out of the film, in accordance with the wishes of those directly and indirectly involved. Perhaps this anonymity will spill over to locations as well.”

The film will not name any of the principals in the incident, instead using their Internet handles, such as “misterhand” and “happyhorseman,” Mudede said.

“We realize this is a sensitive subject and wish to make a thoughtful, fair, and intellectually vigorous film,” Devor added. “We are open to hearing thoughts from all perspectives and acknowledge that making a documentary is always a learning process.”

Ultimately Devor said his goal for the film is to “look through the eyes of those who have different outlooks or consciousness than our own,” and added that he will use an impressionistic approach to visually represent this on film.

“In The Forest There Is Every Kind Of Bird,” is currently filming. Production is expected to finish by the end of summer with editing following in the fall. With luck, the film could debut at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. A commercial release is unlikely before summer of 2007.

Shawn Skager can be reached at sskager@courierherald.com.

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