There is nothing in life more profound than the love of a dog. Without condition they give us more affection and devotion than we could ever return. They are empathic, compassionate, loyal and kind. And despite our less noble character they seem to derive their greatest joy just to be in our company. The mind of a dog is a curious thing. But if we could only imagine their thoughts and give voice to those behaviors we adore so much, we might learn from their example to discover in ourselves the highest aspirations of what it means to be human.
A new film by Ben Knight, which premiered at the 5Point Film Festival, explores the relationship between a man and his dog. After a long life as companion to adventure photographer Ben Moon the mixed breed protagonist named Denali visits many of the places he loves most. And through a dog’s-eye-view of beaches, deserts and climbing spots across the North American landscape the filmmakers weave a captivating tale that defies the common conventions of pet and master to confront the mortality of two sentient species bound together by friendship.
In the voice of Denali as narrator Knight tells the story of the dog’s final days as he reflects upon his life. With still photographs and snapshots captured by Moon over the years the audience bares witness to the intimate details of their time together. Denali recounts not only the days they shared in adventure but he also thinks back on the months of pain and uncertainty they endured as Moon was treated for stage-3 colorectal cancer. Constantly by his side Denali provided the strength and courage his friend needed to survive. And as the life of this terminally ill dog winds to an end he takes comfort in the same love and support that now eases his passing.
“I don’t know what I would have done without Ben,” Denali says in the film. “I’m so glad his cancer went away. I’d be so scared right now if I was going through this without him.”
Exquisitely shot by cinematographer Skip Armstrong, the film called simply Denali is a passionate tribute to life. Portrayed in dog years the compressed timescale of Denali’s existance reveals the risks and rewards of loving with a full and open heart. While in pursuit of art and adventure the friends we find along the way will fill our lives with joy and happiness, if only we might learn to live and love more like dogs.
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