Hollywood has always been full of jerks.
But never more so than this awards season, when three Oscar-nominated films feature donkeys. Both “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “Triangle of Sadness” feature beleaguered burros in memorable scenes, while “Eo,” a best international film contender, follows an affable ass on his travels.
Why are filmmakers obsessed with these adorable equines? Simply put, “their entire appearance is friendly, comical, and ultimately sympathetic,” according to “Triangle” director Ruben stlund. “To me, the donkey is the animal kingdom’s court jester.”
Here’s your guide to the best-dressed stars of this year’s Oscar nominees:
Jenny the Donkey appears in the film ‘The Banshees of Inisherin.’
In “Banshees,” an Irish tragicomedy nominated for nine Academy Awards, a sweet little donkey named Jenny finds herself in the crosshairs of a feud between former best friends Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson). Jenny’s owner, Pádraic, seeks comfort from his four-legged companion, taking long walks through the countryside with her and allowing her to sleep in his house.
The small donkey makes a big impression, so much so that Farrell thanked his animal co-star, Jenny, in his Golden Globes acceptance speech last month. Martin McDonagh, who wrote and directed the film, claims she was involved in the story from the beginning.
“I like cute animals on screen, and I always hope nothing bad happens to them,” McDonagh says. However, donkeys “represent purity. By the end, we almost begin to see (the story) through their eyes: how they observe the violence and craziness of the two men’s conflict.”
The gentle creature serves as a sort of mirror for Pádraic, whose blissful, easygoing nature is shattered at the end of the film when Jenny dies (major spoiler alert!). “The end of Pádraic’s innocence. Jenny is an example of this “According to Farrell. “At that point, he’d lost too much. From then on, the heart is sealed off.”
In the Oscar-nominated Polish film, six donkeys play the role of ‘Eo.’
“Eo” follows the perilous journey of a soulful, melancholy mammal. Following the closure of his circus by animal rights activists, Eo embarks on a journey through Italy and Poland, meeting the best and worst of humanity along the way. Inspired by Robert Bresson’s 1966 donkey drama “Au Hasard Balthazar,” the film aims to change people’s attitudes towards meat consumption and animals, reminding viewers that they are more than just objects.
“Donkeys are thought to be stubborn and stupid,” director Jerzy Skolimowski says. “Stubborn? Yes. Stupid? Absolutely not. They are very intelligent, very sensitive, and if one can find a way to collaborate with them in a friendly manner, they are willing to do whatever is asked of them.”
Six different donkeys play Eo, though one in particular, Tako, gets roughly 60% of the screen time. Skolimowski says that the key to “acting” with donkeys is to always be shooting and observing them, trying to capture moments that can later be edited together to “express a certain feeling.” Food can also be used to coax out performances.