by George Watches Things
A narrative film’s opening images are important enough. But for the documentary, a medium that is completely reality-based (well, the F for Fakes and reenactment films aside), images are crucial. The 2009 documentary Mine knows this all too well. After all, what post-9/11 images of America are more powerful than the ones of Hurricane Katrina and its devastating aftermath?
Mine tells the tale of animals (specifically dogs) left behind immediately before Katrina hit New Orleans. It has typical general informational content, but Mine also chooses a few individual stories to focus on. It backs up the shots of tattered New Orleans with these stories about man and his best friend.
But Mine isn’t just about dogs and humans and their dependence on each other; it is also about how humans deal with other humans. In many of the vignettes, Katrina survivors and the people who have adopted or fostered these animals end up at odds because the new caretakers no longer want to give them back. We get to meet a couple who have adopted Joey, a dog whose name used to be Max, and now wish to keep him, even after his New Orleans owner has come forward. This isn’t a one-sided issue. I’ve lost two cats (who were originally my own) in the last 10 months. I’ve also adopted a third from my local animal shelter. How would I feel if I found out Chris or Izzy had a new home and their new owner intended to keep them? How would I feel if the old owner of Amy knocked on my door and demanded her back?
Mine is very emotional, but never manipulative. It’s a document, signed by real people, proven by their real emotions… which is what the form was made for. It might as well have been a soapy drama about people losing and finding each other after a hurricane, but it’s not. The director allows events and twists to flow naturally, and nothing feels rushed or pushed… not even a Canadian’s (mostly correct) observations on American prejudices. Everything is in its place, and its rewarding to see animals return to theirs, but just as emotional and heartbreaking to see some come up short.
My rating (out of four): ****