I was very happy to attend the West Coast Premiere of the outstanding film Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival last night. This sold-out screening tells a moving and engaging story of a brave, intelligent dog Kaleb who is taken from his Jewish owners and is forced to work for the Nazis. Although this is a dramatic work, it is based on real history where Nazis often heartbreakingly forced Jews to give up their family dogs in wartime Germany.
If you love history and dogs, you will love this one. Often filmed creatively from the dog’s point of view, in actuality five dogs were used to convey the one role of Kaleb, based on each dog’s strengths and abilities. This is a well-told adventure story, with strong, heartfelt emotional impact.
After the screening, there was a fascinating director’s talk with writer/director Lynn Roth, led by Festival Director Hilary Helstein. Roth said she was always told not to work with kids and dogs. Here she did both! They had a very small budget, shot it in Hungary, on natural (not built) sets. Roth said consequently the film was very hard to make, but so worthwhile. August Maturo and other cast members also participated in the discussion.
August is an 11 year old actor who plays the dog owner. He is an outstanding actor, very natural, and despite his age, he carries the film.
Lainie Kazan, a good friend of the director’s, was kind enough to introduce the film. She is a well-known actor who appeared in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and many other roles on stage and screen.
All in all, a very entertaining and moving evening. The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival continues on through May 9th. For more information and tickets, visit lajfilmfest.org. For more photos of last night’s film screening and discussion, visit flickr.com/joybennett.