(The following excerpt from Dogs On The Inside by Anthony Marcusa recently appeared on ecorazzi.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
Two parties neglected and forgotten become the powerful emotional center of an uplifting new documentary, Dogs On The Inside.
We’re taken to Massachusetts, where there exists a unique, mutually-beneficial rehabilitation program that finds rescue dogs paired with prison inmates.
This documentary, from directors Brean Cunningham and Douglas Seirup, follows a handful of inmates at a correctional facility involved in Don’t Throw Us Away, a program that partners them with neglected dogs. For the animal, benefits include exercise, attention, and care while shelters remain crowded. For the prisoners, they have a chance to form connections and work towards parole.
It’s fascinating throughout watching both sides – scared dogs and (emotionally) guarded inmates – warm to one another, seemingly leaving their past behind.
That’s at the heart of this illuminating, heartwarming film: second chances. Early on, it’s easy to see the parallels between these two groups – with the comparisons handled tactfully throughout a film that never strays from its simple, honest goal. Dogs never preaches or calls for political or social change; it more so asks the viewer to be willing to forgive and welcome in those which have been cast aside. When an inmate says, ‘they come from a bad life, they haven’t seen love in while,’ he isn’t necessarily talking just about the dog.
As these inmates are interviewed, talking about what they’ve done wrong, how they are looking to change, and what the dogs mean to them, we follow rescuers around the country to glimpse some of the hardships during the rescues. One man transports a truck of strays and abandoned dogs from the South back up to New England on a regular basis; while another woman talks about trying to save abused dogs, only to be threatened by gun-toting owners.
It serves as an interesting tangent for what is ostensibly a story about two shunned groups finding solace in each other. One inmate is brought to tears talking about what it means to have unconditional love around, while another confronts a bittersweet moment when the dog he’s worked with finally finds a permanent home.
The confessions are most revealing, as inmates profess a need to be stoic and closed off in prison, where rival gang members occupy the same space with wariness and anger. The introduction of a dog, according to one prisoner, dissolved boundaries among the inmates.
Across just over an hour, plenty of time is spent getting to know some fortunate prisoners who have been allowed to participate in the program, as well as the dogs who are being more or less fostered. While the point clearly comes across fairly quickly, it’s hard to get bored watching these dogs find love and embrace affection.
Straightforward and focused, Dogs on the Inside offers a welcoming piece of positivity and hope, following those working hard to take care of animals and take care of themselves as well.
Dogs on the Inside is currently playing in Toronto at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema from Feb 6-16.