Hungarian-Romanian Doc ‘Whose Dog Am I?’ Attempts New Breed of Social Satire
Art and Experience:
The surprisingly complex world of puppy politics becomes the unlikely breeding ground for a new satire produced by Hungary’s Other Films and Romanian production powerhouse microFILM, the companies announced this week during the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.
“Whose Dog Am I?” is a docu-comedy essay about politics in a world where citizens are dogs, politicians are their breeders, and the highest international forum is the World Canine Organization. It’s a film about Big Politics through the politics of the dog world.
“Whose Dog Am I?” is directed by Robert Lakatos and produced by Hungary’s Rita Balogh, and Romania’s Alecu and Ada Solomon, whose Bucharest-based microFILM has produced critically acclaimed films including Radu Jude’s Berlin Golden Bear winner “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” and Calin Peter Netzer’s Golden Bear winner “Child’s Pose.”
Lakatos told Variety the film was inspired by his real-life efforts to breed a successor to his aging Hungarian shepherd dog, a process that was thwarted by the complex rules and regulations that govern the world of dog-breeding.
“Step by step I found out that human politics are reflected in dog-breeding politics,” said the director. “Nearly all the problems of human society, like nationalism, racism, misogyny, exploitation, migration problems, problems of minorities, etc., you can find in dog society and dog breeding politics as well, but in a more brutal way.”
Lakatos is a Romanian citizen who is also a member of that country’s ethnic Hungarian minority, a population of 1.5 million who chose neither to assimilate nor emigrate but preserve their unique cultural identity.
That fact, said Alecu and Ada Solomon, makes “Whose Dog Am I?” “a natural born Hungarian-Romanian coproduction and a necessary one, in these parts of the world still so petrified in a chauvinistic mentality.”
“The film shows—in a funny, surprising and self-ironical way—how we project our identity problems and insecurities on our beloved pets,” they said. “Much of today’s worldwide conflicts are driven by these fears of losing one’s own identity and claims to retrieve it. The film shows the absurdity of this quest for purity and manages to make us reflect—while laughing full-heartedly—on who we are, as a mixture of different ‘breeds.’”
Balogh is the founder of Budapest-based Other Films and a co-founder of the Budapest International Documentary Festival. Of the collaboration with her Romanian co-producers, she said that “it is fruitful to work together, even on such delicate and difficult topics as ours.”
“I believe in building bridges and looking at things from various perspectives—even if nowadays this attitude alone means provocation, as many tend to be so wrapped up in ideologies that they forget there are people on the other side, too,” she said.
“How do we talk about these issues at a time when it is getting harder and harder for many to see the bigger picture? Telling a heartwarming story about dogs, with loads of humor, seemed to be just the right way. I think we desperately need accessible and enjoyable documentaries, also about serious topics.”
Lakatos’ previous films have screened at festivals including Karlovy Vary, IDFA, DOK Leipzig, and Visions du Reel. With “Whose Dog Am I?”, he said he was searching for a unique and distinctive way to address the political issues of the day while side-stepping the destructive conflicts that have become a dominant part of the current discourse worldwide.
“I prefer to avoid fights,” he said. “So I thought that speaking about them in this ironic and comic way, through the metaphor of dog politics, might be the right way of pointing out some problems, without harming anyone.”
“We thought Robert’s special humor, his particular way of enacting and reenacting serious issues in a whimsical, fantasy style, will result in a satirical gem that can ‘dynamite’ the current isolationist, nationalist discourse coming from both sides,” added the Solomons.