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Los Reyes

Football and Chola preside over the skatepark.

Synopsis: Two bff stray dogs live at a park in Santiago, Chile. They rub shoulders with the kids who frequent a skateboarders’ park.

Chola and Football. These are the names of a couple of stray dogs who live in a public park in Santiago, Chile that includes the Los Reyes skatepark. Chola is an energetic black Labrador Retriever who chases bicyclists, burros, riding lawn mowers and tennis balls. She especially loves tennis balls. Football is an old black Shepherd mix. He likes to hold found objects in his mouth and when not grasping a plastic bottle or sizeable rock, he barks. They are best friends. And very good dogs.

Directors Bettina Perut and Ivan Osnovikoff along with cinematographer Pablo Valdes, endeavored to interview and film the adolescents who gathered at Los Reyes (The Kings) skatepark in Santiago, Chile. According to the moviemakers, the skaters were reluctant to be filmed talking honestly about their lives and were prone to acting for the camera. But once they started to spend more time filming the dogs, the kids relaxed.

The docu shows plenty of kids (mostly males) boarding in what looks like a substantial inground pool, paved with cement waves and tagged with bright graffiti. The anonymous kids appear in voiceover. They tease each other about their sex lives and complain about their parents wanting them to go to school or get jobs. One says his mom’s boyfriend aggravates him, preventing him from eating breakfast food when he gets up in the afternoon. I could relate to this because I wouldn’t want someone forcing a sandwich on me when I get up. Unless it was a chocolate sandwich. But when one kid jokes about his abuela kicking him out of her place for being disruptive, I was inclined to side with granny.

They talk about their weed and pill use. Disturbingly, they recount being shaken down by the police: go to jail for drug possession or give us your money. They have vague plans for the future. Mostly they talk about getting high while high. I can’t tell you if the kids are hardcore addicts, come from destitute families or even skate much. And none of them even mention the scrappy, sweet dogs!

Tennis is tiring. (Don’t worry, although it may look like Chola is under anesthesia, she’s just napping.)

Our canine friends while away their days by the skatepark, along with drinking excursions to a nearby pond and naps on the lawns. They also love finding tennis balls. Chola, the young Lab, likes to nose a ball over the edge of the skate park, sending it rolling down a wall and sliding among the skaters. They bark until a skater tosses it back.

Once we see a park-goer share a sandwich. Another time park maintenance workers station a couple of rough-hewn dog houses near the skatepark, a welcome shelter for Chola and Football during rainy days.

Like his wild ancestors, Football occasionally enjoys a can of soda.

According to press materials, the documentarians spent about ten months focused on filming the dogs. During that time, we see Football the Shepherd become increasingly hobbled by arthritis. And he has open wounds that are thick with flies. Watching day after day of this I felt like shouting, “Somebody–director, crew, anybody — help that dog!” I’m guessing they figured they would let nature take its course. But the dogs aren’t wild animals; they are discarded companion animals. And while I suppose many dogs would much prefer spending their days at a park instead of in a crate or garage while their guardians are at work, the strays can’t count on regular food or vet care.

Not interfering in the wild, I get that. You can’t really blast an airhorn to scare lions away from stalking gazelles. Or climb into a tree to clean a baboon’s bite wound. But, yeah, I don’t think anyone is going to lose their documentarian credibility if they get care for an ailing stray.

Los Reyes succeeds as a portrait of Chola and Football; we learn their personalities through their interactions and lingering shots of their expressive faces. But the kids remain a mystery. Are they mostly stoners or skaters? Because we don’t hear any passionate discussion of skateboarding.  But they do love going to Los Reyes Park; de facto home of some very good dogs.

MovieLoon.Blog Movie Overview:

Grade: B-

Cut to the Chase:  The dogs make engaging subjects. Respect to the DP. Raises many questions about the skateboarding kids & Chilean society that it leaves unexplored.

Comedy Highlight: The dogs graciously navigate the skatepark when it’s temporarily re-arranged for a competition. They adjust to construction workers, fences and speakers pumping out 80s era DePeche Mode music.

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