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Dog Film Fest a 'Spiritual Experience' for Pup-Loving Viewers, Founder Says

By Emily Frost | October 3, 2016 5:08pm
 The second annual Dog Film Festival is happening Oct. 15 at Symphony Space. 
Dogs Star in Film Festival at Symphony Space
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A Yorkie dressed as Wonder Woman, a Samoyed striding next to a skateboarder and a pack of Inuit pups voyaging across the Canadian arctic are some of the stars of a film festival devoted to dogs coming to the neighborhood this month.

The one-day Dog Film Festival, now in its second year, will take place Oct. 15 at Symphony Space and feature a range of films about canines — from minute-long shorts to hour-long documentaries to animated movies. 

Attendees at the inaugural festival last year raved about it, said founder Tracie Hotchner, a pet expert and host of NPR's "Dog Talk" who lives in Vermont. 

"People come out in a state of euphoria. They come out as though they’ve had a spiritual experience. They come out with a glow. They come out awestruck," she said.

This year, the films are organized into blocks based on four themes: adventure, love, redemption, and Brits and their dogs.

"Dogs British Style: The English View of Dogs" starts at 11 a.m. followed by "Dogs in the Snow: Adventure & Exploration" at 2 p.m.

A series called "Who Rescued Whom?: Love Makes The World Go Round" begins at 5 p.m., and the festival finishes with a series titled "The Champions — And Other Tales of Redemption" starting at 8 p.m.

The British series "is completely unexpected," with films that are "very funny, wry, strange," and "a cross between "Monty Python" and "Best in Show," Hotchner noted.

The films in the outdoors series are "breathtaking" and involve dogs on adventures "way outside of your experience," she said. 

Movie-goers can see all of the movies by buying an all-day pass for $40 that also gets them a "Dog Person" T-shirt. Tickets to the individual series cost $15 for adults and $10 for kids. Fifty percent of all proceeds go to the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals

Last year tickets nearly sold out, with close to 1,400 attendees at Symphony Space, Hotchner said.

With no previous film festival experience, she started the Dog Film Festival on a whim after learning about the Cat Video Festival

"I tested the waters. I had no idea what would happen," Hotchner said, adding she was overwhelmed by hundreds of submissions and enthusiasm for the festival.

Building on the success of the New York City debut, she was able to take the festival on the road to 11 other U.S. cities through a grant from the Petco Foundation.

The second running of the festival will also go on the road, and Hotchner is again hoping for support from the Petco Foundation. In each city, she'll donate ticket proceeds to a designated shelter. 

The Dog Film Festival draws in all types of audiences with its appeal, she explained.

"You’ve got kids, you’ve got Millennials, you’ve got grandpas [attending]," Hotchner said. "It’s very moving to see that this relationship with dogs is so deep for people."