Opening 24 Jul 2008
With a title like this, it is easy to confuse this film with the prominent comic figure Underdog, but there is no resemblance. Director Jan-Hinrik Drevs leads us into a brutal prison world with a large cast which includes not only humans but dogs, complete with dog trainer. (At the opening night during the 2007 Filmfest Hamburg we met all of them. This is a Hamburg-made film and many cast members, including dogs, are from Hamburg.) Prison director Gloria Cormelius (Clelia Sarto) wants to introduce a rehabilitation program about training dogs for the blind. One candidate for this project is Mosk (Thomas Sarbacher), whose brutal and introverted character will make this project a sure failure, or at least that is what the supervisor hopes will happen. The rules require a one-hundred-percent success rate of rehabilitation in order for this program to succeed, and Gloria is determined to do just that. Since dog training is about bonding, each prisoner gives his dog a name which means something to him. This works with all the inmates except Mosk, whose thoughts revolve around the prison weightlifting championship in which he wants to participate. He names the golden retriever “Dog” and treats her with about the same amount of disregard. Gloria tells Mosk he cannot participate in the weightlifting championships unless he succeeds with his “Dog.” The other inmates also put pressure on him but soon realize that he lacks the natural instinct and simple learning skills to manage this job. It isn’t until his dog nearly dies because of something he gave her to eat that his emotions are awakened and he begins to open up. But when it comes time to give up the dogs to their new blind owners, will these prisoners be ready to do it?
This film is a warm-hearted story that gives hope to those behind prison walls. Drevs came up with the idea after working on stories in the U.S. about the prison rehabilitation system. This film could also be seen by older children since it does not contain extreme violence or language, and they can learn something about prison life, dog training and human nature. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)