Sunday, 3 March 2013

Red Dog

2011 - Dir: Kriv Stenders
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 8th March 2013
Most Australians were familiar with the legend of Red Dog - a stray Kelpie cross who wound up in the newly established mining town of Dampier, western Australia, sometime in the early 70s. He became such a friend to the locals that a statue of him now greets all visitors to Dampier. It was a sighting of this statue, the town's sole piece of public art, that led Louis de Bernières to turn the dog’s tale into a book upon which this film is based. How much of the resulting movie is embellishment is up for debate. But in the tradition of films such as semi-fictionalised The Castle (shown at the FeckenOdeon in 2008), it's a hilarious and occasionally sad look at a side of Australian life whose essence is rarely captured with such affectionate accuracy. The film gathers incidents from every dog movie you ever saw, from Rescued by Rover and Rin Tin Tin to Greyfriars Bobby and Lassie Come Home.
The film’s two legged star Josh Lucas (who is American) did a bit of research into the truth of the legend by meeting some of the older labourers who knew the real Red Dog, and hearing stories about his presence in their community. "I kept finding these people that would show me a photograph of Red Dog with a cigarette in his mouth and a beer in his paw, passed out asleep in their beds ... They’d say, ‘You’d be pissed off because you’d come home and Red Dog would be in your bed.’ I asked, ‘Well, why didn’t you just kick him out?’ - ‘Oh, no. You’d never kick Red Dog out.” came the reply. The setting also contributed to Mr Lucas' interest in the project. "they showed these images of the place where they were going to film. Out in way remote Australia, where the movie takes place. I’ve known so few people who have ever been to this place out in the middle of nowhere. It looked so beautiful. And knowing that no movie had ever been made there before, and that they were going to tackle this difficult land. Because the land, really, is forbidden. You only go there if you’re part of the mines. There’s no water. The land is literally made of metal."
The real Red Dog was an Australian Kelpie, possibly crossed with an Australian Cattle Dog, and is believed to have been born in the town of Paraburdoo, Western Australia in 1971, and died on November 21, 1979. Sadly Koko, who played the Red Dog in the film died last December. The film had been so successful in its native land that the country went into impromptu mourning. Koko had earlier won the American Golden Collar Award for “Best Dog in a Foreign Film”
The movie received considerable support from the controversial Rio Tinto mining company on whose land much of the film was shot, and they were no doubt hoping to gain some friendly public relations warmth from the Rio Rin Tin Tinto effect (pun courtesy of Philip French!).

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