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'Mine' at SXSW film fest: Thank you for my dog

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The best movie I saw during the week-long SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Tex., was not I Love You, Man (though it was awesome!) or the Iron Maiden documentary Flight 666 (excellent!) or Sam Raimi’s unfinished cut of Drag Me To Hell (killer!). No, my favorite movie was a brisk 80-minute documentary by first-time, San Francisco-based filmmaker Geralyn Pezanoski. Mine, the story of pets left behind in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and their owners, who would spend years trying to get them back, didn’t swan into the festival with the fancy stamp of studio backing. But after wowing, and reducing everyone to sniveling tears, Mine was awarded the SXSW Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Watch the film’s extended trailer from YouTube, below, or its more recent trailer over at MIneTheMovie.com. Arm yourself with tissues. More on Mine after the jump.


I’m not sure how to explain why this movie touched me so deeply. Thedoc started with those now famous images of dogs stranded on NewOrleans rooftops and then quickly moved to the efforts of a few amateuranimal lovers who surged into the city and started guerrilla rescueefforts for left-behind pets. Just when I started worrying that maybethere was something a little icky about all my tears for these sad-eyedanimals — what with a Super Dome full of hurting people within blocks ofthis one mewling cat or whimpering dog — Pezanoski switched the focusfrom the pets to the suffering pet owners. She anchors Mine, which explores issues of race, class, responsibility, ownership, everything, on the stories of a few unbelievable people.

There’s Gloria, an old woman who told the National Guard when itcame to rescue her after the levees broke that she would not leave herhouse without her beloved black Lab Murphy Brown. If he was going toperish, she would do the same at his side. So the National Guard tried to rescuethem both, only to have a panicked Murphy Brown escape and getseparated from poor Gloria. A team of people rally around Gloria’scause, working in tandem to reunite the old woman with her missing bestfriend. There’s an old Creole named Malvin who builds his dog Bandit anew dog house next to his FEMA trailer in case the dog’s adoptiveparents in Pittsburgh ever agree to return the pooch. There’s JesseJames Pullins, a downtown Marriott worker who whisked 10 of hisrelatives safely out of New Orleans but who won’t feel whole againuntil he is reunited with his akita mix J.J. (Jesse Junior).Miraculously, he sees J.J. on Cesar Milan’s The Dog Whispererbut somehow their reunion isn’t assured. It’s all pretty brutal stuff,but some of these stories have marvelously happy endings. Here’sanother happy ending: After Mine‘s amazing reception at SXSW, Pezanoski is currently fielding multiple offers for a broadcast distribution.

Maybe this film hit me so hard because the day before, my husband andI almost lost our 10-month old dog. While I tried to find parking offof Austin’s busy Sixth Street, my husband and the pooch got out so hecould meet a friend at a designated corner and pick up his ticket tosee Metallica that night. A truck back-fired, the dog got spooked,darted around a street sign, and somehow yanked the leash out of myhorrified husband’s hand. She was so startled, and so scared, that allshe could do was start sprinting — down a busy street at thestart of rush hour. As my husband ran after her, screaming and beggingfor help, a couple in a pick-up truck told him to get in and they wouldchase after her. A young hipster kid on a bike who saw the whole thingtook off down the hill, pedaling furiously after our dog as she darteddown an alley.

I’m not sure how our dog wasn’t hit by a car yesterday, and I’m not sure if my husband could have survived it if she had. Butthanks to that kid on the bike, who eventually caught up with her aftera mile sprint, and that couple in the pick-up, we got her safely home.My dog’s back and legs are stiff today and her poor little paw pads arechafed and tender. After Mine, we had planned to go see the Saturday night premiere of 500 Days in Summer. Instead, we went home and cleaned her feet again and watched Law & Order on the sofa with her curled between us.

That’s SXSW, folks: a place where you can see movies like Mine and bands like Metallica, and where the good people on the street will rally together to save your dog.