Turns Out 2022 Was a Big Year for Donkeys On Screen

Some cinematic years have asteroids, this one had donkeys

"EO" donkey
Producer Ewa Piaskowska holds a photo of director Jerzy Skolimowski and his donkey during a photocall for the film "Eo" at the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival.
LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

There are certain years in which certain themes or motifs seem to speak to something in the collective consciousness. Some might hearken back to 1999, in which the releases of The Matrix, eXistenZ and The 13th Floor all wrestled with questions of simulated realities in different ways. Others might point to 2011, when both Friends With Benefits and No Strings Attached offered spins on the romantic comedy and fidelity. As for 2022? There’s an argument to be made for it as the year of the cinematic multiverse — but there’s an even stronger case to be made for it being the pinnacle of donkeys on film.

Think about it. The Banshees of Inisherin currently has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as does EO. Triangle of Sadness is a bit lower, at 72%, but all three have positive ratings from critics and audiences alike. What do these three films have in common? To start with: donkeys.

In a recent essay for The Quietus, Thomas H. Sheriff pondered all three films — as well as the larger phenomenon of donkeys in the movies. For Sheriff, the reason why donkeys resonate with filmmakers and audiences alike is simple. “Comedy, pathos, strength, wisdom, meekness… The donkey is not a one-trick pony,” Sheriff writes. “Unlike the sly fox or the silly monkey, the donkey contains too many multitudes to only signify one part of a human; the donkey in fiction is human.”

“Triangle of Sadness” Wins Palme d’Or and Closes an Underwhelming Cannes
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Whatever takes place at this weekend’s Academy Awards, one can be sure that there will be no award handed out for Best Donkey. And perhaps that’s a shame; there’s something to be said for the way that a donkey onscreen can echo the lives of its human counterparts in unexpected but moving ways.

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