Very rarely do we see the other side of activism. Usually, films are on the side of those fighting the good fight for the cause, but almost never show what’s happening to the people who are wrongly abused because of an agenda. The Dog Lover is the first film (as far as I can recall) that has done just that.
Based on the true story of Dan Christensen, a dog breeder in South Dakota who’s farm was raided by a “reputable” organization and has his life turned upside down with false accusations. The film follows a young activist named Sara Gold (Allison Paige), who is working for the United Animal Protection Agency (UAPA), posing as a second year veterinary school student, who infiltrates Daniel Holloway’s (James Remar) farm as she has been lead to believe by the UAPA that it is nothing more than a “puppy mill.” When Gold’s video of a diseased neighbor’s dog attacking Holloway’s daughter, Abigail (Annabelle Kavanagh) is doctored, the family’s reputation, their business and their honor are put on display in the public court of opinion, while facing trial.
“We created the character of Sara Gold as the vet student, the reality is they had the press release written three days before the invasion. This all came out in the law suits. They did an undercover thing for about half a day, we elaborated it to where she goes there for a few weeks,” said executive producer Ali Afshar, who also plays the defense attorney, Raymond in this film.
For the first half of the movie, you are left wondering if Holloway is really the bad guy. He is aloof to the point of being suspicious, but it is later on that you understand why he needs to be that way. Luckily, the voices of hope for the family are his wife, Liz (Lea Thompson) a veterinarian and his son, Will (Jayson Blair). They humanize the family allowing the audience to understand why one mistake can cost you everything.
“Protect the Harvest is all about devillainizing farmers and ranchers and we came across this story that was so true to us, we were like, ‘We need to show both sides of the story, not every farmer is bad, not every rancher is bad, not every dog breeder is irresponsible.’ That’s why we went after this one. This really resonated with Alex (Ranarvelo) our director and myself,” said Afshar.
Shot on location in Pentaluma, CA, The Dog Lover was made on a budget of roughly $3 million with the production value of a $30 million film. It is visually stunning and emotionally exhausting as you long for this family to receive justice. Director Alex Ranarvelo was able to bring out the best performances possible on a shoot that was a little over 20 days.
“Alex (Ranarvelo) knew exactly what he wanted and knew how to go about getting it from his actors. Ali (Afshar) wore double hats as producer and actor and was gracious on every front. I enjoyed every minute with this cast and crew!” said Scott Manuel Johnson, who played Landon, the prosecuting attorney.
The importance of this film is that always know the facts and make sure that the cause you are fighting for is being supported by charities and organizations the way instead of claiming to do so, only in turn to fund a specific lobby with a political agenda. Most animal rights activist groups are going to hate this movie, because it may shine a light on them that they don’t want flashed in their direction.
“Learn the truth, ‘Investigate before you donate’ is the tagline, there are a lot of gray areas out there. American Humane Association is awesome that do have shelters where others don’t. You see these ads on tv and you really don’t know where the money is going, so you have to be cautious out there,” said Afshar about the message of his film.
The Dog Lover is out today in limited release and VOD and will be available on DVD, July 12, 2016.