CHIENNE DE VIE || 2015, Canada || Documentary || Directed by – Hélène Choquette / Written by – Hélène Choquette || Running time: 67 mins.
A dog is a man’s best friend, but more often than not, a dog is much more that just that. This is certainly the case with the homeless people director Helene Choquette filmed over a period of time for her latest feature documentary.
By using their touching relationship with their dogs as a starting point, A Dog’s Life reveals many realities of homelessness that are often either not represented or quite simply taken for granted. For instance, the fact that homelessness doesn’t only take place in the streets, but also in shelters or cars. It also shows the many reasons that might lead to homelessness, whether it is due to a painful life event, drug addiction or mental illness. Her approach to the subject is human.
By focusing on the stories of these induviduals, Choquette avoids a loose generalization of the topic. Another evident choice is her avoidance of a specific comment or critique on institutions, as well as a lack of an expert voice illustrating the subject from an institution’s point of view. It seems that the documentary’s wish is simply to open a viewer’s eyes, by way of exploiting people’s natural empathy towards dogs, that often surpasses that for humans. But the exploration of the relationship between these people and their dogs is full of emotion. One woman is not ashamed to admit that if she had not been able to find an animal friendly shelter in her town, she would have killed herself. Another man bluntly says that he has refused to go to a shelter or a hostel because they wouldn’t let his dog in, before adding later on in the film that he would give his own life to save the life of his buddy, knowing that he too would do the same for him.
The importance of this specific topic is as metaphorical as it is important to strike up a serious debate about the importance of animals and the positive ways in which they could help the needy. This is a debate that could extend beyond homelessnes. It is also poetic and metaphorical to notice the dogs’ loyalty to their owners, and their completely non-judgemental love for them, as it points out that sometimes one should indeed view the world and those who need help through the eyes of a dog. – 4/5