Entertainment Magazine: Film: Heartland Film Festival: Red Dog

Red Dog, We Love You

By Madelyn Ritrosky and Jared Winslow

The award-winning feature film Red Dog is based on a true story.

At the 2011 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, every single screening was a full house, sold out even before showtime.  In fact, we as press ended up buying tickets so we could be sure of getting in our screening.  Living up to what this can suggest about a movie, Red Dog is indeed touching and funny and was obviously very popular with festival patrons.  It went on to win the Audience Award at the end of the festival for favorite feature film.  And with good reason. 

The movie depicts how Red, the dog main character with a beautiful red coat, has met everyone in the small town of Dampier, which is actually an iron mining community, in the Western Australian outback.

The story is told mostly in flashback as people in the local bar – the people who know and love Red – tell a trucker who has wandered in all of Red’s and their stories.  The flashbacks chronicle Red’s arrival in the early 1970s from who knows where and his interactions with the various main and supporting characters. 

The movie poses the question:  How can one dog inspire a whole town?  The answer:  Red trotted in and did just that by helping everyone in some way when he first met each person.  He was everyone’s dog for a long time, unwilling to truly belong to any one individual.

Nonetheless, he did latch on to one man, John, played by Josh Lucas, who eventually moved into the community as the American bus driver taking the workers up and down from the job site.  Red, played by Koko, loved his new, initially reluctant “owner” more than anything, making his way into John’s heart.  This bond was how Red ultimately became famous.  

Unfortunately, a tragedy occurred, and Red had to search for his owner.  He searched and searched, farther than you could imagine.  He searched over an amazingly huge part of Australia, going in cars, boats, and walking – apparently traveling wherever and whenever he could. 

Red Dog is a lot like Hachi.  Both movies have a lost dog as the main character, where the dog connects with a special person.  Both are based on actual dogs and people, where the dogs became local legends, their fascinating stories spreading way beyond their original time and place.  They both show the love, loyalty, and incredible devotion dogs can have for the humans who love them.  

We learned at Heartland that Red Dog was recently a number one film at the box office in Australia.  We understand why.  Red Dog the movie and Red Dog the canine being are truly inspiring.  There are at least three books, one of which is a novel, about Red and his effect on the people he met.  The movie was directed by Kriv Stenders, produced by Nelson Woss and Geoffrey Hall, and written by Julie Ryan and Daniel Taplitz.

Next time you hug your dog, remember that he or she is very special too.  Dogs can be inspiring in many ways.  Let yourself be inspired.

See also:

Photo: (L to R): Jeff Sparks (HFF director), Nelson Woss (Red Dog producer), Ray Mills (HFF), John Fremes (Red Dog producer).

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