Celebrated Russian theatre director Anatoly Vasiliev's Asino (Italian for donkey) is an epic ode to this beast of burden. The donkey has a long cultural history dating back to Greek mythology and the Bible: Jesus rode into Jerusalem on one; Sancho Panza had a loyal donkey; Winnie the Pooh was friends with the dejected Eeyore. Donkeys stand for stupidity, stubbornness and humility.
Asino consists of eight novellas, approximately 20 minutes each. Shot in Italy, Vasiliev's film teeters between reality and allegory, asking viewers to reflect on what they see. The chapter titles (Bacchus, Medea, etc.) and quotes from Apuleius, Pirandello and Aeschylus provide context. The third novella documents the donkey worship in Alba, Italy, where donkey races are held during the Palio. In Asino, donkeys are simultaneously domesticated animals, humans and divine, mythological creatures, so in a sense the film summarises the beast’s role in Western culture.