Stray by Elizabeth LO

By Moira Sullivan

Stray is a documentary made in Istanbul about three dogs who roam the streets and who eventually are taken care of by young Syrian refugee boys. The film is made by the award winning short film documentarian Elizabeth Lo from Hong Kong. She went to Tisch in NYC and received an MFA from Stanford This is her debut feature. Stray is a metaphor that not only fits the dogs but their caretakers as they all live in the streets scrimping for food and shelter. The areas where the dogs roam and the boys live are run down places such as abandoned apartment buildings, streets, beaches, open fields and shops. The film is made with a mobile camera and there are a lot of tracking shots of the dogs angled low to the ground for their heights, It is not a scripted film and there are non-actors so it seems, making it a compelling neorealist film. People in the streets are aware they are being filmed but don’t seem to mind or even to notice or care. The shots of Istanbul are not pretty and the standard of living very low. There are many dilapidated homes and warehouses often covered with colorful graffiti in the places where the film was shot. The dialogue that exists in the film is with the Syrian boys and local inhabitants. They want more dogs to care for but the elder locals are aware that the boys sniff glue and might not be suitable caretakers. Embedded on the screen is information about life for dogs in Turkey. Euthanasia is forbidden as the practice is widespread to put animals to death in Turkey and on Greece. There are good animal rights organisations and homes where animals can be sheltered. There are plenty of dogs and they run in packs on the outskirts of town looking for food. Zeytin, Nazar and Kartal are prominent in the film. Zeytin is a proud tan colored labrador; Nazar is not as capable but a dark brown labrador attached to Zetin. Kartal is a black and white collie puppy. All three bond with the Syrians and live on the streets. An unforgettable part of the film is when Zeytin howls during the chanting of the Koran. He almost seems like is chanting himself. The abject poverty is everywhere but the young boys and the dogs have an integrity that helps them to survive and even to exchange moments of laughter and warmth. The title of the film fits both humans and dogs and interspersed with the scenes are poems and sayings from Diogenes, a Greek philosopher who was born in what is now Turkey and lived during the 3rd to the 4th century. He had many wise saysing about dogs that flash across the screen putting the canines in a beautiful centerfold.

© 2021 - Your Name - Air Date: 02/23/21
Movie Magazine International