The central message of this film appears in the title. We Don’t Deserve Dogs is a smart way to praise dog loyalty to people, well beyond what we deserve. Nonetheless, this excellent documentary explores the deep bonds that exist between humans and dogs around the world.
The universal love for dogs is beautifully and thoughtfully portrayed by these talented filmmakers who are clever at enabling their (human) subjects to talk. Through captivating interviews and masterful camera work, they have created a cultural odyssey.
Ugandan villager with her dog companion.
Filmmakers Matthew Salleh and Rose Tucker traveled to eleven countries including Chile, Uganda, Nepal, Finland and Romania to capture intimate portraits of shared and extraordinary relationships between people and the dogs they love. The viewer soon discovers that the US has no monopoly on dog love, nor on the way we indulge our best friends. A dog birthday party in Lima, Peru makes this clear. Just like the footage of the “Dogs Day” in Nepal, an annual event where dogs are showered with flowers, colorful powders and treats.
In sharp contrast to the traditional roles of dogs in the fields and on farms, the film shows how many dogs have been put into service in the modern world. For example, in Finland, assistance dogs help children learn to read, and in northern Uganda they comfort former child soldiers suffering from PTSD. The stories are intimate and personal and so off the beaten track that it’s hardly surprising how the filmmakers found these people, these dogs.
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Another thought on the inappropriate title: Perhaps the irony is purposeful, as so many stories in the film underscore how much the featured people really deserve the companionship of the dogs in their lives. The mutual bond they eloquently express is deep; Sure, if someone deserves dog love, it is these individuals. Your life-affirming connections with animals are well deserved.
Or maybe the title is a slap on the short but disturbing segment towards the end of the film that deals with the Vietnamese dog meat trade. A supplier speaks factually about the tradition of eating dog meat. This segment is enough to underline the irony of the film title. (Note: it starts at 1:07:06 minutes in the film and lasts about five minutes.) There are no graphic scenes and the filmmakers take no position on this cultural tradition. It was recorded to show one of the “more challenging” aspects of the Dogdom.
Don’t let that excruciating dose of reality interfere with the powerful, moving stories of the documentary … portraits of the nobility, spirit, and ability of dogs to love. A series of vignettes showing the best that both dogs and humans have to offer will burn into your mind. These emotionally strong vignettes are further evidence that dogs make our souls healthy, our hearts lighter, and our laughter fuller. And in return they receive our love and gratitude.
The filmmakers said they wanted to avoid making another “cute” dog movie, and they definitely succeeded. To some it may be an often-told story, but here the telling is done with great skill and empathy for its subjects. In these days of global conflict and horror, a good dog story is always welcome.
The full-length film has been a popular selection at film festivals around the world, from Warsaw to Cleveland, and has proven to be a crowd-pleaser across the festival grounds. The film will soon be everywhere.
We don’t deserve to have dogs digitally premiered on April 9, 2021.
Running time: 84 minutes; subtitle
Visit We Don’t Deserve Dogs for rental and purchase options.
The filmmakers are offering a special free online screening to the first 200 people who reply using this promo code THEBARK.
How to redeem the code:
1) Visit wedontdeservedogs.com
2) Click the “Available on Vimeo on Demand” button
3) Enter the promo code when prompted THEBARK to see the movie for free.
Limited to the first 200 users.