Zoo - Short Film Review

★★★★★

Written & Directed by: #WillNiava

Starring: #IanCloutier, #IanContreras, #AmosNzamba, #BrendanSheehan

Short Film Review by Taryll Baker

Poster for Zoo

A misunderstanding between three lawless boys and a troubled off-duty police officer escalates beyond control when a sudden reversal of power dynamics forces the pack to a point of no return.


No matter how many times a film like this is made, it will never be enough. Some could call it cliche or a well-worn topic, but they’re wrong. There are people that have to face their nightmares every single day, every single time they set foot outside their homes. It’s (unfortunately) not so shocking now that a lot of the time, run-ins with police officers will place them in a situation exactly how Zoo depicts.


What begins as a care-free, energetic night out for three boys, ends in fury. Though the slightly troublesome boys skip around town causing a small amount of concern, where they end up can and should be avoided. What I like about this film is that it isn’t giving us some totally clean, innocent people to connect with. It seems like everyone has their own problems. It isn’t excusing their behaviour either, rather highlighting a very important topic; police brutality. A very simple misunderstanding which is evidently turned into something aggressive by the officer. He abuses his power and it gets messy. There’s a swirling feeling of heightened panic, and as it unfolds, the camera also swirls.


The cinematography by Simran Dewan is on a level usually seen in big budget pictures. Beautiful framing and handling, shaky but controlled. The way Dewan captures the brutality is so simple yet affecting, especially in the sense that you feel it rather than see it. I’m not sure if it was shot on film or just digitally with grain added in post, but either way the visual style of this short is stunning, and the tone in the story is reflected perfectly through the lens.


The performances from the small cast are all phenomenally rich and textured. The three boys and the cop are so convincing that it almost feels like we’re watching a documentary, and in some way, we are. These are events that plague our very existence, and it must be stopped. I sound like a broken record at this point but then I remember the many, many years of systemic racism and discrimination that Black people have had to deal with, and still do.


Zoo is a reminder that there’s still work to be done, a LOT of it. If Niava’s film can grab someones attention, then it’s a job well done. This is high-class filmmaking; a thought-provoking piece.


Watch the trailer for Zoo below.

#TaryllBaker