2019 MIAMI FILM FESTIVAL: The idea of following around two dogs in a skatepark seems like it would make for a fun short. However, directors Bettina Perut and Ivan Osnovikoff would not settle for a small film. Instead, “Los Reyes” follows two stray dogs, Football and Chola, for ten months. “Los Reyes” juxtaposes the lives of these dogs with the lives of young adults and teenagers in Santiago, Chile. The slice of life documentary makes for a fantastic exploration. While it suffers from pacing issues at times, “Los Reyes” stands out as an incredible work of art.
“Los Reyes” primarily focuses on the two dogs as they live out their lives in the famed Los Reyes skatepark in Santiago, Chile. The project originally began as an examination of the skaters themselves. Perut and Osnovikoff hoped to bring their stories to life, but the events on camera felt like reality TV.
However, as the crew began filming the dogs, the teens and young adults who frequent the park opened up to the filmmakers with their stories. The filmmakers layer the audio of these discussions with imagery of the dogs at the park. Conversations about abuse, drugs, and finding their way in the world become commonplace. As these dialogues take shape, the imagery on screen reminds us that many stories surround us, even when we are not paying attention.
No real narrative exists throughout the film, but some moments stand out. At one point, the government themselves brings dog houses to the park, allowing Football and Chola an opportunity to escape the weather. However, cinematographer Pablo Valdés brilliantly captures the mundane and makes it visually exciting.
The shot composition is gorgeous throughout, and the dog’s familiarity with the cameras incessantly following them eventually yields some impressive moments. Whether the dogs are chasing bikers, howling at a police siren, or exploring their new home, Valdés takes good angles to deliver a visually compelling documentary.
“Los Reyes” does not constitute a perfect film though. At times, the pacing feels off or too familiar. You can almost anticipate when the off-screen narration will get mixed over the visuals of the dogs. The predictability creates a feeling of familiarity that undercuts moments of emotion. Without a story, “Los Reyes” can grind to a halt at times. The visuals are the key to the film, but the lack of the narrative may turn some audiences off.
A film like “Los Reyes” shimmers because of the artistry on display. The story of two dogs would always be fun. However, using Football and Chola to backdoor in a larger story about Chile makes “Los Reyes” compelling filmmaking. It is an artistic documentary that is far more compelling than a simple YouTube video featuring dogs. This portrait of a city and its inhabitants, on four feet or two, makes for an exciting cinematic experience.