I recently watched not one but two new documentaries focused on dogs. Both are available to stream.
We Don’t Deserve Dogs
We Don’t Deserve Dogs highlights the human-dog relationship by profiling dog people around the world. It offers a fascinating glimpse at dogs and their humans in Uganda, Nepal, Peru … and several other countries where, it turns out, people fuss and fawn over and spoil their dogs as much as we Americans do.
I was ready to love this film until we got to a segment near the end which, to be fair, the Bark review linked above warns about. It addresses the dog meat trade in Vietnam.
From reading the Bark review, I was expecting it. But I was unprepared for how long and how graphic it was. This segment ruined the movie for me. Bark says it starts at about an hour and seven minutes in; if you watch, I recommend stopping the movie at that point.
Stray, the second documentary, offers a dog’s-eye view of life on the streets in Istanbul, a city known for its huge population of stray dogs and for laws protecting them. (There are even special vending machines to feed them!)
Following Zeytin, a beautiful mixed-breed, as she goes about her life is fascinating. There’s not really a story and no dialogue. Some overheard conversations provide the only human interaction in the film.
Zeytin has a pack of canine buddies whom she hangs out with, plays and fights with, and finds food with.
She also seems to have a community of humans she’s in regular contact with. Among this group are a group of young men, refugees from Syria, also living on the streets in Istanbul. The film is a subtle commentary on the experience and treatment of both the dogs and the humans.
The real story of the movie, though, emerged when I watched two short films bundled with Stray. Interviews featuring the filmmaker, Elizabeth Lo, these extras brought out Lo’s view of dogs and the cultural differences she saw while researching and making Stray.
It’s the difference between seeing dogs as needing to be owned and “protected” by humans and seeing dogs as independent beings, capable and deserving of the opportunity to live life on their own terms.