Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mine - You Can Keep It

I mentioned when I saw White on Rice that I was the only person in the audience for the screening I attended. That was down at the Camera Cinemas in San Jose.

It happened to me again in January. This time, the film was Mine and the venue was the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. I'm sure that this must be indicative of fewer people attending films although film revenues were up in 2010 weren't they?

Anyway, Mine was the audience award winner at the 2009 DocFest. I saw 10 films at that festival and was impressed by the high quality of the films at that festival. I did not see Mine but was looking forward to seeing it since it beat out so many other worthy candidates for the Audience Award.

Mine is the story of a number of "abandoned" pets in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I put abandoned in quotes because one subject took exception to that categorization in the film. The circumstances surrounding the subject of the film were fairly uniform - the pet owners couldn't take their pets for various reasons when they evacuated New Orleans. In each case, the owner was elderly or poor. Government run evacuation buses and shelters did not accept pets and most evacuees thought they would be back in a few days. The damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and the precautions taken in advance of Hurricane Rita meant that residents could not return for weeks or months.

Into the breach stepped some do-gooder from Hollywood. She slapped an animal rescue sign on her truck, drove to New Orleans, got past the checkpoints and proceeded to rescue pets by breaking into houses when she heard dogs barking. Most of the rescued animals were dogs since cats don't make such loud noises. As a results of delays and disorganization, the records linking the pets to their owners were lost. Subsequently, many of the pets were adopted by people in different parts of the country. In many cases, the new owners were let to believe the original owners abandoned the pets and would not want them back.

The movie focuses on the hard-core owners who worked for years to regain custody of their dogs. This is where I will inject my opinion. I feel badly for the owners but have to wonder why they continued their efforts in the aftermath of New Orleans. With all the troubles they had, why didn't they simply move on and get another dog? I can also surmise that dog loving audiences in San Francisco bestowed this film with the audience award because people in the Bay Area (and San Francisco in particular) are dog crazy...and I mean that in a pejorative way.

Several years ago, I recall the case of a woman who was killed by mountain lion. I believe she lived near Sacramento. She left behind at least two children. The mountain lion was hunted and killed. The female lion left behind a cub. Two charitable funds were established - one for the kids and one for the cub. The fund for the care of the cub drew more donations that they one for the kids until that fact made the news and some radio personalities took up the cause.

That's not directly related to the audience at DocFest or the pet owners in New Orleans except that kind of thinking is so prevalent as to be acceptable - animals are frequently given equal, if not greater, status than people.

Getting back to the film: while we see the story unfold over several years, I kept wondering if someone in the film would ask the $64,000 question - why don't you just get a new dog? They danced around the topic a little but the answer was obvious that these owners didn't want a new dog. They wanted their old dog back. In one case, the new owners took legal action to retain the dog.

Bottom line - I found myself largely unsympathetic to the dog owners (original and new). I could sympathize with their plight but failed to understand why they didn't move on with their lives or why their story really needed to be told.

One myth was partially dispelled though. Several pit bulls were abandoned or even killed prior to their owners leaving New Orleans. This gave the impression that many dog owners in New Orleans were neglectful (even criminal). This film showed that not to be the case although I still wouldn't be surprised if New Orleans was dog fighting capital of the US.

I guess I'm just too cynical to be moved by a film such as Mine which seemed to make the outlandish claims that poor people got the shaft during Hurricane Katrina, that there are dog fanatics in the US that will travel thousands of miles and spent countless hours and money to save a dog, that some dog owners can't move on and that there is significant dog fighting activity in the Big Easy.

Mine (2009) was directed by Geralyn Rae Pezanoski - official website.



I keep forgetting to post my 2009 film count. I saw 348 films or programs in the movie theaters in 2009. The average admission price was $6.87. That adds up to $2,390.76 spent on movie admission. I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed by that number or please that I got over 500 hours (conservative estimate) of entertainment for that cost. Regardless, it was what it was...

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