How do we appear through the eyes of a dog? It’s a question that lies at the heart of this fascinating and surprising Istanbul-set documentary.
What would it be like to experience the world through a dog’s eyes? That is the central focus of ‘Stray’, a remarkable documentary that takes its cameras down to the ground to follow several stray dogs as they live their lives in Istanbul in Turkey. Istanbul is estimated to be home to over 100k stray dogs, a number that has risen due to a policy that prohibits the capture or killing of stray animals, and the locals are used to seeing countless dogs as they go about their day to day business (as a visitor to the city last year it was as noticeable as you’d expect given the numbers). This documentary from Elizabeth Lo primarily centres on three dogs, following them around the city as their lives intersect with the city’s other inhabitants.
The most remarkable thing about ‘Stray’ is how it is filmed, and I’d love someone to shed some light on the techniques used, with it having an almost hidden camera vibe with no one aware they’re being filmed and acting as naturally as you’d expect in the circumstances. It also seems to regularly shadow the dogs without their awareness, so we follow them without any behaviour being modified on account of the presence of cameras or a film crew. On a story level I found it really effective as well, providing a new perspective on the world and drawing you into the lives these animals live. As a dog lover I’m primed to enjoy a film such as this, but even for those who aren’t (crazy people!) it has much to say about life in a modern, busy city for all of its inhabitants.
Clocking in at 72 minutes it’s a short watch, but even in that limited time you’ll find yourself immersed in the lives of Zeytin, Nazar and Kartal, the three dogs that provide the main focus for ‘Stray’, and I felt this was a moving and empathetic, impressively constructed documentary.
Directed By: Elizabeth Lo