10/10
One of the most important films you will ever see.
23 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
How many times have we been told that a film is "important" or a "must see" or "life changing" or any other word or phrase designed to compel us to watch it? Most of the time it is just hype, often fuelled by a director's sense of self-importance. Thankfully that is not the case with A DOG NAMED GUCCI. This time, it's the truth. Important? Yes. Must see? Yes. Life changing? Yes. Self-important? No. SUBJECT-important? Absolutely.

Even so, it would be easy for a subject-important film to be derailed by its maker's sense of self-importance.

It would also be relatively easy to make a film about animal abuse that forcefully appeals to peoples' sense of decency and compassion. It wouldn't take much to shock the viewer to the point of numbness. Wisely, filmmaker Gorman Bechard takes a different approach. Instead of making us feel outraged or guilty or anything that even suggests manipulation, he presents his story with the purity of the master documentarian, by presenting the facts unadorned as they are, without commentary (from him) and letting his audience respond to them.

Of course there are moments in A DOG NAMED GUCCI when you will cry, especially if you are a dog lover. You are bound to feel outrage at other times. But not because the director wants you to feel that way. When a filmmaker starts telling you what to think and feel about something that becomes propaganda. At times, this is appropriate. Most of the time, it is the easy way out. The "voice of God" director--think Michael Moore--dictates. I prefer the director who relates, assumes the intelligence of the audience and then has the strength of his/her convictions that the material they are presenting for consideration is sufficient to make their point.

In a fallen world, animal abuse remains a constant. As a subject for a documentary film it is horribly relevant. Critics may yell "animal abuse? what about the abuse of children? the elderly? war? etc." But that simply misses the point. The subject of animal abuse will be as meaningful to you as much as your sense of justice, compassion and indignation is engaged. Presented in the way A DOG NAMED GUCCI is presented, the widest possible audience is likely to respond in the way that best serves the subject matter: by being inspired to stand up, speak up and make a difference.

SPOILER Once upon a time an adorable little puppy was ripped from the arms of its young runaway owner, hung by a rope around its neck over a tree branch, slapped and punched, then set on fire. An innocent animal that should have died was instead rescued and nurtured back to life by the love and care of a number of individuals, including his new "dad", Doug James. After recovery, the mission to see the little dog's (now named Gucci) tormentors apprehended and punished was under way.

And therein lies the true substance and value of this film. Woefully inadequate U.S. laws that made it difficult to prosecute let alone alone punish Gucci's perpetrators were gradually challenged and changed through the efforts of Doug James and many, many others. And always, like the truest guide to justice, was the presence of Gucci in the courtroom a considerable factor in appealing to lawmakers' compassion and sense of responsibility. And with Doug James and Gucci leading the way, others, in other circumstances, stood up and were counted as well. A DOG NAMED GUCCI takes a handful of these heart-rending stories and weaves them into the tapestry of the film's fabric. By the end, though we have cried, felt outrage and mourned the loss of so many of God's precious creatures to human cruelty, we are left with an appreciation for those who have facilitated change in the law toward animal abusers. Equally important, we are inspired to have zero tolerance for these criminals if and when we encounter such behaviour in our own experience and in our own country.

And that is why A DOG NAMED GUCCI is one of the most important films you will ever see.
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