Full Frame Review: The Last Pig & Donkeyote

The relationship between man and his animals is always of interest. While The Last Pig and Donkeyote didn’t play as a double feature, they became a nature fit at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, NC. The Last Pig focuses on a farmer and the pigs that roam his land. Donkeyote follows a man who likes to roam the Spanish countryside with his donkey and his big dream. Both films are about how each man had to adjust their future plans for the sake of their animals.

The Last Pig introduces us to Bob Comis, a farmer who wants to do things the right way. He didn’t grow up on a farm and slowly go into farm when he moved into the country while going to grad school. He got into raising pigs because they are rather low maintence. Just give them mud and slop. He doesn’t want to get involved in the industrial raising of pigs where the pigs are kept in tiny metal stalls with no room to roam. He wants to make happy pigs and let them race around a large patch of land, root in the land and squeal to their hearts content. But no matter how happy the pig is, at some point they must be taken into the trailer for a trip to the slaughterhouse. Unlike sheep, you just can’t pull a pig aside every few months and shave the excess bacon off their belly. The film gets graphic as director Allison Argo and her crew follow the mature pigs into their final stop at the slaughterhouse. It’s rather harsh after seeing the pigs having such fun in the field. And that is what weighs on Comis. What good is it to give them a happy life if they’re going to end up chopped up just like the pigs that never see the sun? He ponders if he’d be cool sending his dog to slaugterhouse. Seems the being a livestock farmer is a job made for a person that can’t feel empathy like a minor sociopath. The 54 minute movie is wonderfully shot by Joseph Brunette was a Days of Heaven feel in the pigs’ field.

No animals are turned into bacon during Donkeyote. Manolo is a retiree living in Spain who enjoys going on long distance trips with his faithful donkey Gorrión and dog Zafrana. They can vanish for days as he just keeps going across hills and countryside. He loves to tell kids the stories of his journeys with Gorrión. His walks all seem to be in preparation for a major event. He wants to come to the United States and walk the Trail of Tears with Gorrión. What Manolo doesn’t count on is the amazing costs of undertaking such a feat. Donkeys can’t fly coach in airplanes. So Gorrión decides to seek sponsorship from a major company that is having a “Live your dreams” competition. Even after entering he proceeds to go on a long walk with Gorrión to the corporate headquarters and also head to the nearby port to figure out the logistics on shipping Gorrión to America.

Like a few other films at this year’s festival, Donkeyote feels more like a foreign film and not a documentary. You can show this film to your relatives that just want a sweet film. Manolo is a charming gruff guy and Gorrión rules the screen like Gus or Francis the Talking Mule. The film naturally evolves without sitting Manolo down for a real interview questioning his quest. The camera is there to observe. There is one scene where the film crew member speaks from behind the camera when Manolo is having difficulties. It seems to be done to prove that the director isn’t a heartless observer.

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