London Film Festival: Stray (2020)

Director: Elizabeth Lo

Running Time: 72 Minutes

Turkey has a large problem with stray animals. From the early moments, viewers are filled in on the necessary history, which led to euthanising strays being made illegal. Elizabeth Lo centres her feature around a few dogs, told through their eyes as they wander through the streets of Istanbul. She mainly follows Zeytin, a tan colour pooch on their journey trying to find food, a place to sleep, and everything in-between.

By viewing this tale through a canine point of view, we're given a unique perspective on the lives of the residents. These silent wanderers cross paths with many people, listening without judgement as the people grapple with their own issues. But while some take mercy on the dogs, others look upon them with scorn. An early moment sees Zeytin trying to make friends with a domesticated pooch, but their owner is resistant, believing the stray to be dangerous.

Crossing their paths are a group of homeless children, who understand what the dogs are going through. This intersecting of marginalised groups highlights the sad truths, as people do the very bare minimum to help them, but nobody truly aids them in the way they need. At the end of the day, they still struggle to find a place to sleep, and remain homeless.

Elizabeth Lo includes a number of directorial flourishes, as quotes relating to dogs keep popping up, and there's a dizzying scene where a GoPro camera seems to have been attached to a dog. While they aren't wholly effective, it doesn't detract from this kind-hearted film. Filmed across Turkey over two years, Lo has crafted a tender piece of work which emphasises so much, by following dialogue-less protagonists. Paired with the score by Ali Helnwein, inviting you in so warmly, this is one for dog lovers everywhere.

Stray is available to watch on Wednesday 7th October at 6:30pm, through BFI Player. Be sure to get yourself a ticket right here.