Saturday, May 29, 2021

Movie with Abe: Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog

Courtesy of JDOG FILMS

Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog
Directed by Lynn Roth
Released May 28, 2021

There is a bond that exists between humans and animals that can’t really be replicated by anything else. The comfort that comes from having someone by your side who doesn’t question your motives and wants – and gives – only affection is sincere and valuable. Their presence also brings back memories of formative moments that were shared and may no longer be represented in reality. The power of that connection shouldn’t be underestimated, and especially in cinema, can be even more transformative as a continued reminder of love in a dark world seemingly devoid of any hope.

Joshua (August Maturo) is ten years old and living in Germany in the 1930s. His parents (Ádám Porogi and Ayelet Zurer) have more puppies than they can handle in their small home, and try to find new owners for all but Kaleb, the beloved German Shepherd that Joshua and his sister Rachel (Viktória Stefanovszky) so adore. When the Nuremberg Laws make it illegal for Jews to own pets, Joshua and Kaleb are separated. After a disastrous stay with a local couple, Kaleb’s energy proves boundless, leading him to a Nazi concentration camp where he serves as a loyal dog for an SS officer (Ken Duken) and encounters his young former owner, now a prisoner, who is rejuvenated by the chance to be reunited with the dog that meant so much to him.

This film’s title conveys its focus, which is on a dog who identifies strongly with the family that raised him and, as can only be the case in movies, does everything possible to stay connected with them regardless of what’s going on in the world. The best comparison for this film might be “War Horse” since there is a very real and disturbing showcase of the horrors of the Holocaust, beginning with the stripping of privileges away from Jewish people before they are moved to concentration camps. Given that this is a film classified primarily as “family,” not much is actually shown, but, to be clear, this is not a lighthearted dog film that will merely make audiences melt with joy.

Those who have personal connections to the Holocaust or merely an aversion to seeing such content portrayed in a somewhat frivolous way may find this experience off-putting since, however uplifting Kaleb’s desire to be with his owner may be, it can’t possibly succeed against the backdrop of a truly awful period of history. Finding moments of hope and wonder in tragedy, however, does have its value, and dog lovers will find plenty of opportunities to celebrate the buoyancy and elation that can be found in this entirely expected film specifically targeted to those with a true and sincere affinity for man’s best friend.


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