Friday, March 1, 2019

LOS REYES: Bettina Perut and Iván Osnovikoff's canine treat is a doggone winner

The Miami Film Festival opens today and continues through March 10 (you can find out all about it by clicking the above link), and though TrustMovies has seen only a single film in the huge array, it was both good and unusual enough to merit a visit to this annual local cinema event.

I should think that dyed-in-the-wool dog lovers will cream their jeans over LOS  REYES, the new film from Bettina Perut (below, left) and Iván Osnovikoff (below, right). Los reyes translates to the kings and is the name of the oldest skate park in Santiago, Chile. Viewers of this new documentary, however, may rightfully imagine that the name applies to the two stars of the film: Fútbol (above, left) and Chola (above, right), the two stray dogs who have made their permanent home in the park.

The canines seems to have worked out a kind of peace with the many skateboarders who zip and zag around them in the park, and the two animals are the major subjects of this rather amazing movie. The filmmaking team shows the dogs but tells us nothing about them, and this refusal to anthropomorphize the pair in any way is welcome and smart.

Other than ambient sounds, the only dialog we hear is that of the young people who frequent the park and chat to each other about their lives. We barely see these humans but we do hear their oddball and sometimes sad stories of families in disarray, discord and drugs -- into which everything from class, economics and personal responsibility come into play.

All the while the cameras focus on the dogs -- at rest and play, barking, jumping, chasing, panting, even occasionally humping (we see a few other dogs throughout the film, but the focus is almost constantly on Chola and the increasingly aging Fútbol).

And -- oh, boy -- do our filmmakers love unusual close-ups and camera angles. I suspect you will not have seen the doggie sights anywhere else that you will see here (an insect resting on our canine's canine). We view their faces, yes, but also their paws, eyes and snouts. These are "mug shots" like no other.

The juxtapositioning of visuals and dialog makes a very strange combination, one that differentiates the animal world from the human in ways you won't previously have experienced. And this separation seems somehow necessary -- and salutary.

The park itself is at one point repainted and made ready for some kind of event. Along the way we get the sense that the young park goers we hear are somehow growing up a bit. And that the older dog, Fútbol, is declining. The shots we see of insect symbiosis with the older dog is near-shocking but very strange and even oddly moving. Nature in the raw.

Without, I hope, doing too much anthropomorphizing here, it seems to me that the filmmakers allow us to experience loss and grief via the remaining Chola. And this short scene may be enough to break the heart of even the toughest of dog lovers.  Los Reyes is something to see and experience.

The documentary, a co-production of Chile and Germany running just 77 minutes, will play during the Miami Film festival this Sunday, March 3, at 6:45pm at the Silverspot Cinema. I don't think the film has U.S. distribution as yet, but perhaps the recent showing during the FSLC's Film Comment Selects series, coupled to the current one at this Florida film festival, will help induce an intrepid distributor to come aboard.

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