Los Reyes is up there with White God among my favorite pup pictures of recent years.
It’s the fifth — 5! — dog movie of 2019, along with A Dog’s Way Home, A Dog’s Journey, Buddy, and The Art of Racing in the Rain. While quite a few of these four-legged
tails tales seem to bear undertones of Christian spiritualism — a bizarre trend I shall try to unpack…eventually; should only take me roughly 23,875,934,346,793 words (e.g., WHAT’S “GOD” SPELLED BACKWARDS?!?!?!) — Los Reyes is all about Earthly matters; let’s call it a fly-on-the-fur slice-of-canine-life.
And unlike the other four, its cinematic language is actually steeped in the gestures of the dogs. Through observing their daily existence, the documentary positions their lives in relation to our own — physically, spatially, aurally, and within the frame — reflecting, refracting, and
juxtapositioning juxtaposing our lifestyles, raising questions concerning the nature of, well, nature — human, animal, environmental, and otherwise.
What is our relationship to the living and breathing world around us, including our fellow creatures, no matter how many legs they have (the aforementioned flies are part of the equation)? What does — and, what CAN — the behavior of these pooches, and our passive treatment of them, reveal? About them, and us? What’s natural, what’s neglect, and what’s malicious? What does it mean to live the life of a stray, an astray life, a life astray, when surrounded by so much life?
Societally-speaking, Los Reyes is interested in issues of co-existence, symbiosis, and survival, wading into the muddy differences between competition, camaraderie, collaboration, companionship, and community. How much agency do we possess, especially compared to these furry (quasi-)friends? Do the systematic trappings of society — family included — support us, confine us, or fail us? Who’s trapped, what’s trapped, and who/what’s doing — or participating in — the trapping? Can our surroundings, that which is in our immediate vicinity, where and what we call home, both give us life and kill us? What does liberty and freedom look like and mean, for us and for them? Are we in the general vicinity? What do we lay claim to (public spaces! tennis balls!), and how do we treat/protect that precious territory? And what do we not take care of, what falls outside our self, and externally, imposed purview?
Humans and animals alike are barking, yearning for…something. Do we know what that something is, for ourselves and for others? Does anyone even care?
Pair Los Reyes with Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles for a double feature about the responsibility that documentarians owe not only to how they capture their subjects, but also to their well-being. Add The Amazing Johnathan Documentary to the bill, and it can become a triple feature about how documentaries often rely upon — and even revel in; their existence is predicated upon — the suffering of others to serve their own art, even when it doesn’t best serve the interests of who/what is being depicted, that which the entire enterprise rests, and is ostensibly about.