Described as the ultimate love letter to dogs, Stray is a powerful documentary about stray dogs living on the streets of Istanbul.
Stray explores what it means to live as a being without status or security. The doc follows three strays as they embark on inconspicuous journeys through Turkish society. Zeytin, fiercely independent, embarks on adventures through the city at night; Nazar, nurturing and protective, easily befriends the humans around her; while Kartal, a shy puppy living on the outskirts of a construction site, finds companions in the security guards who care for her. The strays’ disparate lives intersect when they each form intimate bonds with a group of young Syrians with whom they share the streets. Director Elizabeth Lo’s award-winning film is a critical observation of human civilization through the unfamiliar gaze of dogs and a sensory voyage into new ways of seeing.
It’s by following the trio of canine outcasts that we get an intimate portrait of the life of a city and its people.
Turkish authorities have tried to annihilate stray dogs since 1909, leading to mass killings of Istanbul’s street dogs for the last century. But widespread protests against these killings transformed Turkey into one of the only countries where it is now illegal to euthanize or hold captive any stray dog. Every free-roaming dog today is an emblem of resistance—living manifestations of compassion in the face of intolerance.
I was worried the film might be too intense or too difficult for this dog-lover to watch, but instead, it proved a moving and powerful experience.
“My journey through Turkey traversed a socio-cultural terrain in which for a moment, one nation became refuge for many others,” says filmmaker Elizabeth Lo. “When xenophobia, species destruction and nationalist sentiment are rising all around the world, Stray springs from these cracks in our anthropocentric modernity. It asks us to re-evaluate what it means that our streets are continuously emptied of everyone except those whom we’ve deemed to be its legitimate citizens. Through Stray, I hope to continually push the boundaries of the cinematic medium in order to explore and challenge unequal states of personhood — to expand viewers’ circles of moral and perceptual consideration beyond their own class, culture, and species.”
Magnolia Pictures will release ‘Stray’ in theaters and on demand on March 5.