review by Bobby Blakey
The great thing about documentaries is they can take on any subject and make them compelling when handled correctly. Those featuring animals are often heartwarming and sad but always interesting. The latest, Stray takes a unique take on the world of the canine with a minimal approach that could be something special or could end up barking up the wrong tree.
Stray follows what it means to live as a being without status or security, following three strays as they embark on inconspicuous journeys through Turkish society. Zeytin, fiercely independent, embarks on adventures through the city at night; Nazar, nurturing and protective, easily befriends the humans around her; while Kartal, a shy puppy living on the outskirts of a construction site, finds companions in the security guards who care for her. The strays’ disparate lives intersect when they each form intimate bonds with a group of young Syrians with whom they share the streets. Director Elizabeth Lo’s award-winning film is a critical observation of human civilization through the unfamiliar gaze of dogs and a sensory voyage into new ways of seeing.
I loved this film, but it was a bit different than what I thought it was going to be. The entire film follows these various stray dogs with no narration outside of the voices going on around them. You are pretty much experiencing their daily lives and those they interact with like they do. This makes it a bit odd at times in relation to being a film expecting some possible info to the situation with strays in Turkey, but at the same time it embarks on the free and sometimes chaotic lives of these dogs.
You can’t help but fall in love with these dogs and get fully invested in their world. This film is not so much about the laws and situation, but instead just about life. It just lets them do their thing both good and bad to give you an understanding to how life is for them. When it comes to an end it kind of feels abrupt and might leave some feeling like they didn’t really go anywhere, but if you look inside yourself and through the eyes of these dogs then you will see it was really about so much more.
Hit the streets of Turkey and experience the life of a Stray when it hits DVD and On Demand on June 1 from Magnolia Home Entertainment.