A doggone sad and cute documentary about Istanbul’s strays.

The opening credits for the new Turkish documentary “Stray” explain how capturing and killing stray dogs has recently been illegal in Turkey, and that’s why we see some stray dogs without the authorities up their tails. We see them wandering around the cities and parks, listening to small talk and conversations from various people, defecating in the grass, rummaging through the garbage for food, hanging out with homeless people, and engaging in dog fights.

Looking at “Stray” makes me wonder how the Tramp’s life would appear without the dog catcher or Lady welcoming him to her family. Maybe the owners of that Italian joint would eventually adopt him, I don’t know. On the other hand, it does feature echos from “Milo & Otis” or “Homeward Bound,” minus the dog looking for his home, but more on how the dog transcends from one location to the next. In the movie, three dogs (one of them being a puppy) have their own perspectives on where they’re marking their territories, and how they go about their lives.

Writer/director Elizabeth Lo really goes inside the mind of a dog and their shabby environments. Without homes or anyone to look after them, they’re labeled strays. Seeing them live harsh lives is really quite sad, because they’re such adorable and energetic creatures. I used to have a dog, who had to be put down, and that was a sad time for me and my sister. But now, she has two dogs, who are both bundles of fun and joy. I always love to see them smile and run around. But enough about that. Let’s get back to my review of “Stray.”

Lo is also the producer, editor, and cinematographer of this movie, and she photographs every angle with sentimentality and truth. She films them with kids, homeless people, and garbage, and she films them in the sweetest ways. I mean, yes, there are dog fights, but looking at them is so emotional, that you hope these dogs will be adopted.

It’s literally a short documentary, running for 73 minutes (which is why this review is short), so there isn’t much character development on the humans that they come across. But this movie isn’t about them. It’s about the dogs, who go about their lives, and allow the director to see what they see, smell what they smell, and eat what they eat. And you can’t have a dog picture without some howling. It’s crucial to the humanity inside of them.

Bow wow wow!

Rating: 3 out of 4.

On Demand This Friday

Categories: Documentary, Foreign

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