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The film Man and Dog opens with a dog catcher collaring stray after stray in rural North Carolina. The man is a bag of contradictions: He’s a Southerner in a New York Yankees cap and a dog lover who is both warden and executioner on doggie death row. “It’s nothing special I do,” the animal control officer says without irony, “because the dogs do deserve better.”
The man dotes on his own dogs, two handsome German shepherds. “My job,” he tells documentarian Randolph Benson, “makes me appreciate them.” The film’s punch line comes in the final minutes, when several dozen yelping hounds are dropped into a metal chamber, locked in, and gassed to death. You can hear the poor pups whining to the last gasp, the latest of the 7.8 million animals killed each year by roughly 6,800 animal-control officers nationwide.
Man and Dog, shown at the Black Cat on March 20, is typical of the fare shown at the 14th Street NW nightclub over the past few months, as it tries to develop a brew ‘n’ view business with an old-movie-house vibe.
The Monday-night series has also featured local filmmaker John Monte’s Harold, My Mechanic, a 28-minute journey into the mind of a hippie Volkswagen mechanic who wants to be an organic farmer. (Think Zen and the Art of VW Maintenance.) Monte’s documentary never caught the festival circuit, however. Its downfall was its technical “sloppiness,” Monte acknowledged prior to the Black Cat screening. But, he said, “That’s the problem with a lot of independent films.” Monte insisted that, as more and more young filmmakers hit the big time, the indies, even student indies, “are becoming contrived.” But you don’t need to sit through Harold to know that. —Patrick Tracey