Los Reyes is a 2018 documentary about two semi-stray canines, Chola and Football, who live in a skatepark in Santiago, Chile. The film is shot almost entirely from a low perspective, to bring you down from the withering heights of humanity to simple canine primitivity. There are few words, save the dialogue between two mostly unseen childhood friends, local skaters, who struggle to make a living in and deal with the neighbourhood gang scene while searching for their own ambitions and dreams — the majority of the documentary is focussed on the interactions and daily antics of Football, a grizzled old male shepherd mix, and Chola, a black female lab of some kind, as they reign supreme over the skatepark with their instinctual desires and drives.
Still perspective shots are frequently interspersed with (admittedly slightly disgusting) observational macro shots of insects, from hanging on to barrier tape, feasting on Football’s dying body, and even mating. This offered three tiers of life: the sterility of humanity, the purity of the dogs’ lives, and the brutality of the insects, all interconnected by a subtle common theme of struggle and survival.
What did I think of the documentary? Well let me tell you. At first, I was really, really, really confused. I was not prepared for this type of poetic storytelling, with no narration. I really do need to watch more of these. I think 5 minutes in, I fell asleep for about 15 minutes, and when I woke up I panicked because I thought I might’ve missed too much to write a review about (LOL), but then I through the ambiguous presence of a central message and just focussed on these two persistent canine lives.
Superimposed on the specially familiar subplot of the human narrative, the figurative bickering of the dogs was almost a funny miming of the skater boys’ story, while remaining distinctly independent. Watching them live so indiscriminately familiarly, despite Football’s declining health, was almost pitiful, yet simultaneously endearing. From the very first time you hear his bark, you notice that something is wrong. His actions are playful and vivacious, but his hoarse bark screams of seniority and old age. Watching the persistence of animal life unaided by human technology was, for me, a spiritually cleansing experience — To live simply, to appreciate more, and that death can come upon us unexpectedly, at any time.
The DOXA documentary film festival continues until this Mother’s Day, with shows at Vancity Theatre, the Cinematheque, and the SFU-GCA on Hastings.