The New York City-born Dog Film Festival wags back into town this weekend with movies to remind you why they’re man’s best friend.
When she started the festival last year, founder (and “Dog Talk” radio show host) Tracie Hotchner wanted to bring people together for a “shared, almost a spiritual experience of seeing and feeling something in a roomful of people having a similar experience.”
What she thought would be a few dog films turned out to be thousands, and the festival has been held in 11 cities, arriving back where it began at Symphony Space this Saturday.
Hotchner chose shorts, documentaries, animated films and movies that celebrate the human-canine bond. “The festival is a unique way of honoring dogs as true family members,” she says. “It’s all about love. Love changes everything.”
Films are divided into four themed sessions (each is separately ticketed) that run about two hours: Dogs British Style, Dogs in the Outdoors, Love Makes the World Go ‘Round and The Champions. Each is made up of largely shorts leading into a feature-length production, and half of festival proceeds will benefit the Alliance for NYC’s Animals, which will be bringing adoptable dogs to the festival. (Attendees’ dogs are unfortunately not allowed inside the theater, but Hotchner promises to bring back the Pooch Party next year.)
There’s plenty of goofy fun, like “One Man and His Dog” about a duo who go everywhere together, usually on a skateboard, their small Australian town. In “Sniff,” two British staffers at a San Francisco dog hotel dress up as canine concierges to raise funds for their dog documentary. “It’s the strangest, most wonderful movie,” she says, describing it as “a cross between ‘Best in Show’ and ‘Monty Python.’”
The devotion on both sides is poignantly told in films like “Dear Captain,” in which a war veteran pays tribute to the dog from K-9s for Warriors that saved his life. In “Pete the Dog,” aspiring filmmaker Benita Raphan struggles to help her adopted pet who can’t stand the bustle of New York City because he had grown up in a puppy mill. (Don’t worry, even the tear-jerkers have a happy ending!)
Dogs can also be oddly human. “Dogs: Guilty of Jealousy,” shot from unusual angles like beneath a water bowl, reveals that “when we think our dog is guilty, that’s not guilt, that’s appeasement,” says Hotchner. When things get tough though, you know who’s got your back.
Though the film Hotchner would like to see doesn’t exist yet, but she hopes someone takes on the challenge. “I’d love someone to make a film about a homeless person and their dog," she says, "because that’s a really important relationship — and one that other people make wrong assumptions about.”
Dog Film Festival
Oct. 15, 11 a.m., 2, 5, 8 p.m.
Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway
$15 per session, $40 full festival pass