(The 2019 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival ran April 4-7 in Durham, NC. Stay tuned for a smattering of excellent reviews. Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not share just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)
A lyric ode to the friendship between two canine residents of the oldest skate park in Santiago, Chile, Los Reyes (“The Kings,” also the name of the park) offers sublime filmic joys of a rare kind. Filled with stunningly beautiful images – mostly focused on dogs Football and Chola – accompanied by audio of the young skateboarders as they ride and relax, discussing family, drugs, school and more, the documentary presents a remarkable world where all live in harmony. The dogs roam free, unmolested, and though young Chola loves to chase anything on wheels (and the occasional donkey), she and her older companion leave everyone else in the park to their own devices. The ostensible simplicity of the conceit masks an underlying profundity that slowly rises to the surface until, by the end, we are fully engaged by this urban space overflowing with such unbridled joie de vivre.
Though Football and Chola are, themselves, extremely charismatic lead characters, their every move tracked in a variety of compositions, it’s the counterpoint of their universe set against that of the humans that truly makes this story come to life. They sit, lie down, run, nap, play with balls, play with rocks, all the time observing events around them, sometimes participating, sometimes not. The park, with its many bowls (depressed pool-like pits designed for skating) and plazas, affords the dogs ample opportunities to interact with skaters, who miraculously never run over or crush the animals. Chola loves to either let a ball almost drop into a pit, then catch it at the last minute, or drop it entirely and then wait for a skater to throw it back up. Football loves to hold any and everything in his mouth, from cigarette packs to bottles to stones (his particular favorite) large and small. Somehow, they eat and survive; more than that, they appear entirely content where they are, their companionship all the company they need.
It’s a remarkable profile of their relationship. Directors Iván Osnovikoff and Bettina Perut (Surire) have created a mesmerizing hybrid of nature documentaries and city-symphony films, holding our attention through both their choice of subject and unique approach to the narrative. Using drones to establish context and macro lenses for the details, they cut between landscapes wide and close. It’s the latter that prove the most fascinating, the textures of ears, noses, tongues, paws and fur brought into sharp relief, the flies and mosquitoes that roam the dogs’ bodies becoming supporting characters in their own right.The older Football, with his heavier coat and quasi-lame hind leg, provides especially rich territory for these tight explorations of the canine form, though the healthier Chola, who looks like a gorgeous black Labrador Retriever (I have no idea what Football’s breed might be), still gives great close-up. It’s their park (and their movie), and we are just lucky visitors allowed in for 78 minutes of cinematic bliss.
– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)
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