Elizabeth Lo, Director of (who also produced, filmed & edited) “Stray”

by | Mar 3, 2021

Elizabeth Lo—an award-winning filmmaker who directed “Stray,” a wildly-inventive documentary about the stray dogs who roam freely in Turkey (by law, no one there may hold captive or euthanize a stray dog)—discusses her lifelong love of dogs, spurred by her childhood dog, Mikey; “Stray”’s end credits note the film is “In memory of Mikey.” Lo explains that her initial plan for “Stray” was visiting multiple countries to document, and contrast, how they each treated stray dogs. But by first landing in Turkey, with its law protecting strays, the attendant cultural leaning—citizens tend to reflect true concern for the dogs, feeding them and otherwise looking after them—and by meeting Zeytin, Lo recognized the entire film should be made there. She describes some of the traits and behaviors that made Zeytin her movie’s pup-protagonist. From merely knowing Zeytin from the movie, it’s not hard to see why she emerged as its star: she’s highly charismatic, even by dog standards, she has enormously expressive eyes, she seems whip smart as she navigates through Istanbul rush-hour traffic and other day-to-day challenges. She appears to always know exactly what she’s doing, and what others are doing—for example, Lo tells a story about, while editing the film, spotting Zeytin giving her a previously unseen, knowing wink while the dog had seemed to be in a precarious position. Lo talks about how Zeytin’s two canine co-stars, Nazar and Kartal, came to occupy those roles, and addresses the ethical dilemma she faced around Kartal, a sweet puppy who was dognapped, and whether to intervene; the police ended up intervening. She offers observations about the trio of homeless, somewhat nomadic Syrian refugee boys, and how their storyline parallels (they’re strays, too), then intersects that of our pup trio: they obviously feel a real kinship with the dogs, and even though they’re squatting in local buildings, Lo says they somehow had the resources to get the dogs veterinary care. The final portion of the conversation includes a discussion about the notion of whether Zeytin would want to be adopted—using as a jumping off point comments on the “Stray” Instagram page that, while kindhearted, suggested a serious misunderstanding of the film)—and my asserting that Zeytin’s feelings may echo that of the Frances McDormand character, Fern, in “Nomadland”: She likes her solo life just fine, thanks, and would not be inclined to change it.“Stray is available everywhere March 5.”  (https://www.straymovie.com, https://www.instagram.com/straydocfilm/)

ALSO: I spoke briefly with Amanda Wight, Program Manager of Wildlife Protection for the Humane Society of the United States, who provided information and analysis about the horrific situation that happened in Wisconsin last week, when trophy hunters killed nearly twice the sanctioned number of wolves in just under 60 hours—when officials halted the wolf hunt. Wight addressed the repercussions and implications of this fiasco, lessons we can learn from it, and methods to voice our displeasure, and outrage, to Wisconsin and Great Lakes lawmakers, and the Department of Tourism. (https://www.humanesociety.org)

COMEDY CORNER:  Jim Gaffigan’s “I Rescued A Dog”–within the piece “A Good Dad.” (https://www.jimgaffigan.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: The Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden”


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