Music by Tucker Zimmerman.
"Philip Hoffman's '?O, Zoo! (The Making of a Fiction Film)' uses a diary format to skirt along the edge of someone else's filmed narrative (Peter Greenaway's 'A Zed & Two Noughts'), and to trace the anatomy of pure image-making. 'Pure' is both the right and the wrong word: Hoffman is a man addicted to the hermetic thisness of filmed images, and plagued by the suspicion that these images, far from being pure, are really scabs torn away from the sores of the world. Found footage shot by his grandfather (a newsreel cameraman) is the starting point for Hoffman's meditations on the illusion of visual purity, and on the distance between the 'neutral' image and the value-laden narrative that it can be made to serve. It is a moral distance, one that this filmmaker surveys with a wary fascination." - Robert Everett-Green
"'?O, Zoo! (The Making of a Fiction Film)' is ostensibly about the making of Peter Greenaway's feature film, 'A Zed and Two Noughts,' the production of which Phil Hoffman was invited to the Netherlands to observe. However, Hoffman's film actually concerns the terms and conditions under which it was itself made. In part, the film translates actuality and memory into invention and fiction in which the symbolic father is cast as a real ancestor. Hoffman rewrites the Canadian documentary tradition into a family memory and romance." - Blaine Allan, A Play of History
"Philip Hoffman uses the pretext of shooting a documentary on the set of Peter Greenaway's new film 'A Zed and Two Noughts' to pursue his investigation of the medium. Hoffman continues the odyssey-diary he began in his earlier films of trying to assign coherence and meaning to the fragments of truth defined as experience. At the same time, he is deeply influenced by Greenaway's approach to the documentary, which is to say, a cross between experimental and a near total rejection of the traditional form. '?O, Zoo!' is a metaphor, the filming of the filming of a fiction film. It is also a puzzle, whose pieces, once together, lend themselves to reflect a picture of dissemblance." - Gary Evans, 1986 Grierson Seminar
"Hoffman creates a documentary that is a fiction and a fiction that is a personal document. In so doing, he engages the viewer in a process, which seeks to understand the motivations behind the making of not only Greenaway's film, but any film. For while Greenaway has no compulsion to harness his images to his structural premises, Hoffman echoes this lack of compunction by refusing to show the audience the footage of the elephant struggling to stand up. And while Greenaway's flamingos scattered in disarray, behind the scenes find other resonance. For Hoffman's framing of the flamingos demonstrates not only the fiction of an order, but evokes a sense of beauty that is found in the chaos of flamingos unfettered by context, unrestrained by narrative." - Dot Tuer, Vanguard
"The alternate title of '?O, Zoo! (The Making of a Fiction Film)'- is a key for tracing our changing relationship to the text as a documentary and/or fiction. '?O, Zoo!' begins as a documentary, the alternate title at this point refers to Greenaway's 'A Zed and Two Noughts' as the fiction in the making. However, as Hoffman's film reveals the processes of its own construction, those discourse indigenous to the Canadian documentary tradition, '?0, Zoo!' swings to the side of fiction. Here, (the making of a fiction film) refers not Greenaway's film, but to itself. Yet the final sequence with the dying elephant forcefully restrains us from calling '?0, Zoo!' purely fiction. Hoffman's film cannot be situated categorically as either documentary or fiction; '?O, Zoo!' is a film about 'naming' which itself resists being 'named.'" - Paul Matusek, The Independent Eye
"Now... I guess it has to do with that dominant idea that the purpose of photography and film is that it is to tell us something about the past. I think that too narrow a view, and that, more importantly, photographs and films should be considered as devices, which help us through the present. In '?O, Zoo!' the diarist's voice-over relates how the image of the elephant suffering on the ground, trying to get up, is shot, and then the diarist puts the film in the refrigerator and doesn't develop it... In personal terms this event in the film relates back to my preoccupation with photography as a youth. I was the family photographer to one who took pictures of family events.
"Well, in the old country there is a tradition to take pictures of the dead in the funeral home. So when my grandfather died - this is my German grandfather, my father's father - an uncle of mine asked me to come to the funeral parlour to photograph my grandfather. I went on the last day, before everyone else, and took the pictures. Anyway, I just put the film in the freezer. I couldn't face the image I had made at that time. I developed it, finally, after I had finished '?O, Zoo!' but I had stored the film in the freezer for about ten years." - Philip Hoffman