Pick of the Litter

 

starstarstarstar

 


A revealing portrayal of the work done by Guide Dogs for the Blind.

 
Pick of the Litter

  

We have here a film of immense human appeal. Dog lovers will probably take that for granted since this documentary by Dana Nachman and Don Hardy takes as its subject the training undertaken by Guide Dogs for the Blind. However, while the film is not unaware of the cute appeal inherent for many in its subject matter, what needs to be emphasised is that this insight into the two-year procedure involved is so watchable and informative that even those who lack any special love for animals will find it rewarding viewing.

 

In point of fact, Pick of the Litter offers a telling blend of the old and the new. Perhaps surprisingly it is the choice of this subject matter as the basis for a cinema feature that breaks fresh ground. As for what is old, Nachman and Hardy have adopted a familiar but popular approach usually found in those films which, whether following students singers or artists, first show how a group of people prepare for a competition or an audition and then encourage the audience to identify with those who on competing are destined to end up either as winners or losers. Without any sense of having to force it, that same kind of format proves to work well here when applied to animals.

 

Following a brief preface which stresses how guide dogs can save lives, Pick of the Litter begins with five newly born puppies. Referred to as the 'P' litter, they are given the names Potomac, Patriot, Phil, Primrose and Poppet and we see how each animal is assigned to an initial raiser in the hope that, with the right guidance, they will win through as reliable guide dogs or, failing that, will become breeders. Some, however, may have the wrong temperament and others may not develop the required skills sufficiently: the increasingly detailed training procedures are well illustrated and, with the focus being maintained on all five animals, the viewers come to share the hopes of their trainers that the dogs in their care will not be marked down for a 'career change', the phrase that spells failure.

 

Pick of the Litter brings forward various raisers, members of the training staff of Blind Dogs for the Blind and one or two of the applicants who are hoping to get a dog assigned to them. Avoiding an excess of talking heads, it frequently opts for various raisers to comment quite often in voice over while allowing us through the visuals to become familiar with all five dogs. There is one omission in that we learn nothing about how raisers prove their qualifications, but otherwise in its simple, straightforward way this film adroitly covers the ground and it is well put together. Audiences of all kinds and ages will warm to it and be glad to have seen it.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Christine Benninger, Tami Shankle, Ronald Strother, Janet Gearhart, Deana Allen, Jenna Bullis, Todd Jurek, Stacey Ellsison  and the dogs Potomac, Patriot, Phil, Primrose and Poppet.

 

Dir Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, Pro Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, Screenplay Dana Nachman, Ph Don Hardy, Kurt Kuenne, Jacob Stein and others, Ed Don Hardy, Dana Nachman and Jacob Stein, Music Helen Jane Long.

 

KTF Films-Signature Entertainment.
80 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 17 May 2019. Cert. PG.