Friday, June 29, 2018

A kind of canine Kedi arrives on DVD: Mary Zournazi's doc, DOGS OF DEMOCRACY

Since both the very popular cats-of-Istanbul documentary, Kedi, and the just-now-arriving-on-DVD doc about some Athens canines, DOGS OF DEMOCRACY, were made in 2016, I don't think you can accuse either of any kind of plagiarism. Yet it's very difficult to watch the latter without constantly recalling the former. Kedi is the longer film (by 21 minutes) and the better one -- more graceful and professional -- too. But writer/director/ cinematographer Mary Zournazi's 57-minute movie is still very much worth seeing.

Ms Zournazi (shown at left) is the Australian daughter of a pair of Grecian ex-pats who only recently made her first trip to that "cradle of democracy," which was at the time (and still is) going through an economic crisis which has put that country's 99 per cent into a state of what appears to be an ongoing and maybe permanent kind of "austerity" which has thrown a huge amount of its population into actual poverty (or even deeper poverty). And while the general public has done everything from continually protesting this austerity and had even elected a government that tried to do something about this, it has all been to little avail. The uber-sleazbag politicians who brought Greece to its knees seem to have gone unpunished, and, as usual in our current western would-be "democracies," it is the public who pays for it all -- over and over and over again.

While Kedi was barely political (I recall a single anti-Erdoğan slogan appearing as graffiti; anything more and its filmmaker might not still be among the living), Dogs of Democracy definitely is. Like the cats of Kedi, these dogs live on the streets and are cared for only via the good will of the humans who help them.

Yet they seem to have taken their place as canine helpers of the many protestors who regularly take to the streets. The dogs have endured tear gas attacks, just as have the protestors, and have had their already short life span made even shorter.

We hear from one of the people who care for the dogs -- himself a homeless person -- that a stray dog's life expectancy is around three years, due to the probability of being hit by an automobile or poisoned. As in Kedi, we meet a number of the folk (above and below) who make it a point to care for these animals, and we're also given a little history of Greece and its dogs, in particular one famous canine who regularly visited a POW camp during World War II and which, more than any of the Germans in charge of the camp, attested to the humanity of the prisoners there.

The movie is a pretty interesting -- but also pretty uneven -- mix of interviews, visuals, poetry, prose, dogs and history (and, finally, even a single cat!). For animal lovers of any sort, I should think it will be a slam dunk, given how bracing and often moving is its mix of animals helping humans and humans helping animals always turns out to be.

Among the various folk we meet, the most famous face probably belongs to Yanis Varoufakis, the economist/academic/politician who served for six months as Greece's Minister of Finance back in 2015 -- though he, like some of the others interviewed here, are identified only by their first name. This may be cozy but it's not particularly professional. The movie could have used a bit more rigor.

From EPF Media and released via MVD Entertainment Group, the documentary hit the street earlier this month and is available now for purchase or (I would hope) rental.

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