Still Life With Animated Dogs

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Dog is my co-pilot

Paul on Czech street The dogs you are about to see in this film are not the only ones I have ever owned; but they are the special ones - the ones who have shared something crucial with me. - Paul Fierlinger

In STILL LIFE WITH ANIMATED DOGS we meet Roosevelt, Ike, Johnson and Spinnaker, the canine companions who helped shape Fierlinger's evolution as an artist and as a man. Vivid animation illustrates the adventures of the endearing dogs who shared their owner's 40-year journey from despair to wonder.

Living in Stalinist Prague, Czechoslovakia in the 1950s, a young artist named Paul Fierlinger was angry, depressed and rebellious against the political regime where the Communist government had been in power since the end of World War II.

Roosevelt
Roosevelt
Fierlinger drew attention to himself by being overtly different in a place where sameness was the law of the proletariat. Living in his unlocked attic apartment was illegal. He grew a beard, which was unusual and therefore suspicious on a young man. The "strange paintings" he created were disdained because art was supposed to be realistic. And he owned a dog at a time when only peasants had dogs for barking at strangers. To make things a little harder, he named his Scottish Terrier Roosevelt. While Fierlinger was loudly belligerent, Roosevelt learned how to stay out of the spotlight. He taught Fierlinger a valuable lesson in civil disobedience: "When it comes to authority, get sneaky and do everything under the table. It never failed [Roosevelt] 'till the day he died." Fierlinger eventually sought freedom using this important lesson as a tool.

Ike
Ike


Johnson
Johnson
After Roosevelt passed away, Fierlinger heard of an "uncontrollable" dog in need of a new home. A woman gave him a feisty and beautiful dog with boundless energy, who Fierlinger promptly called Ike. In order to take Ike everywhere, Fierlinger created a badge that falsely certified himself as a seeing-eye dog trainer. "Having to take care of a dog made me hold on to the last trace of decency and self-worth left in me," he said. Though commercial dog food was nonexistent and meat was scarce, some of the finest restaurants in the city served Ike choice leftover meats because of his special badge. The man and dog never separated for one minute in six years, until Fierlinger escaped from Communism's choking grip.

By forging documents to trick the Ministry of Internal Affairs into granting him an exit visa, Fierlinger finally found an opportunity to leave the country in the late 1960s.

Not surprisingly, the artist soon found another loyal companion after he settled in the United States. Johnson, a charismatic and quirky Boston Terrier and his first dog as a "free man, " introduced Fierlinger to a part of himself he never knew existed. Once, when a client he was meeting for the first time approached Fierlinger's car at the train station, he commanded Johnny off the front seat, growling, "Get in the back!" The client, who resembled Hitler's stronger brother, meekly whispered, "Oh, oh, all right...sure," opened the car's rear door and slithered in next to Johnny. "I now knew that I possessed commanding powers over people," Fierlinger mused.

Spinnaker
Spinnaker
At the film's completion, Paul Fierlinger is an award-winning animator living in the Philadelphia suburbs, where he owns a much-loved terrier named Spinnaker, who came to live with him after it was picked up by a woman on her way to a Dog Rescue Society picnic. "Spinnaker registers every nuance of my behavior, especially when it has to do with his own desires or fears," says the artist. Through his daily walks and on sailing trips, Fierlinger muses about the unspoken bonds between animals and humans and about the divine powers of nature.

Dogs have always animated Fierlinger's life, reminding him to love in even the bleakest of times. At once a portrait of the artist, an historical perspective, and a meditation on the wonders of nature and intimate connections between species, STILL LIFE WITH ANIMATED DOGS is a playful and moving ode to man's best friend.




Resources Filmmakers Speak! Dog Tales Postcards from the Hedge Fido Facts Wag the Dog Animation