Street Dogs of South Central (film)

So, you think your life is pretty tough, huh?

“Street Dogs of South Central” is a feature documentary written, directed, and produced by Bill Marin. I happen to know Bill, and am familiar with some of his previous work, which gave me a biased perspective going into this viewing. The two projects I associate with Bill include his comedy “Police Squirrel”, which starred… well, a hand puppet police squirrel. And his other project was a limited release “documentary” featuring an old band mate of mine(Tim Fraser) running around Boston Common in a gorilla suit. The “ape project” basically involved Bill hiding behind some trees with a camera while Tim was pursued, surrounded, and subsequently detained by police on horseback in Boston Common. So, I was taken aback when I found out that ‘Street Dogs’ was narrated by Queen Latifah, distributed through Lionsgate, and took on such a raw and mature topic. While Street Dogs does have some playful and tender moments peppered throughout the film, for the most part, this is some emotionally hard shit to watch.

Elsie is one hardcore bitch.

Don’t take the previous statement to mean that I didn’t like the film. While it did seem to drag a bit in some spots, that may have been more due to the fact that I was struggling on four hours of sleep, and watched the movie while lying down in bed. Given those circumstances, a Gwar music video might have seemed a bit sluggish in pacing. Bottom line : it was well executed. Bill also picked a unique topic, and it proved to be a subject deserving of a real spotlight. Just because human suffering and violence runs rampant in South Central Los Angeles, it doesn’t mean that the plight of the 30,000 dogs who roam the streets in misery is therefore, an irrelevant issue. It’s just a different issue altogether – one that has so far eluded the attention of enough concerned citizens to make a difference. Hopefully, this film can change that.

Yeah, we got it Bill. We know it’s your movie.

We follow one particular group of dogs through the film, with Elsie(a black Labrador) as our central character. I thought this was a good idea. It really helped to convert hours of potentially similar footage into an engaging and compelling storyline. Not to mention it was all quite informative. I really did learn a lot about dog behavior, without feeling like I was in a classroom hearing someone regurgitate a list of facts from a text-book. Keep in mind, there is no dialogue in the film other than our royal Queen’s intermittent voiceovers. So, it’s a tall order to keep a movie flowing with no human faces ever talking on-screen. Even though the film comes in at a relatively short running time of 85 minutes, it still could have proved difficult hour and a half to fill, if it weren’t for the engaging story of Elsie and her extended family and friends.

Extras from the film : “Blindness”

There is one scene in particular where a dog(Jack maybe?) gets hit by a car and mangles his leg. It is absolutely brutal to watch. But, I think the footage served it’s purpose as a sobering reminder of the myriad of perils these dogs face on a daily basis. Would I watch this movie again? Probably not. It was super tough to see these innocent creatures endure a hazardous life, rife with pain and suffering. But, it was definitely worth watching once. Street Dogs delivers on it’s clear mission to be a didactic tool, which can hopefully serve as a catalyst for real change in the lives of these animals. As for how much good this movie can actually do – that seems to be up to Animal Planet and Lionsgate at this point in time. Let’s hope they sack up and give Street Dogs of South Central the wide release it deserves. Beyond just for the dogs’ sake, Bill is a talented guy who made a quality film, and I’d love to see him get proper recognition for his efforts. Not to mention, get him greenlit to make a new, bigger budget documentary. This time, the subjects will be street musicians of South Boston who don ape suits.

Overall Rating : 7.1/10

– JA