Virtual Cinema Goes to the Dogs with the New Istanbul-Set Documentary “Stray” March 8, 2021

Puppies are the key to many hearts. It is hard to find anyone immune to their curious charm. Seeing the world through their eyes is one of the many blessings of sharing life with these four-legged marvels.

The Underbelly of a Glamorous City
In Stray, viewers visit the fabled city of Istanbul, Turkey, like never before. Those who have been a tourist there, and those who have caught glimpses through Hollywood hits like Skyfall and Taken, are in for a surprisingly different perspective.

Filmmaker Elizabeth Lo achieves an astounding sense of invisibility as the audience accompanies Kartal, Nazar, and Zeytin, three homeless dogs of Istanbul, and delves into what lies beyond the city’s glamour. Viewers follow the dogs closely as they sleep in the humble abodes of refugees, get caught amid chanting protesters during a women’s march, or just sit idly by as random couples engage in deeply personal conversations. That level of candid filmmaking is one of the achievements of this documentary.

A Knack for Survival
The documentary sheds light on the living conditions of homeless kids and stray animals, and it also serves as a cultivator of sympathy for the locals who always have a bowl of food and a pat on the head ready for the dogs. Through the commentary, audiences learn about disturbing past practices as well as the progress that has been achieved in recent years toward the humane treatment of stray dogs.

Expect to go through a broad range of emotions, including horror as the strays cross buzzing interstates, lay down in the middle of a busy highway, and emerge on the other side unharmed. Plot device or not, these strays do have a knack for survival. The film offers a glimpse of how the stray dogs blend seamlessly into the ancient Turkish city of many colors and sounds, and complement it, in a way only a dog can.

• Stray / WATCH HERE Your ticket ($12) supports the MFAH and provides a 3-day pass to the film. SEE THE TRAILER

About the Author
Ozlem Adra, chairwoman of the American Turkish Association–Houston, is a linguist, film buff, and dog parent.

Underwriting for the Film Department is provided by Tenaris and the Vaughn Foundation. Generous funding is provided by Nina and Michael Zilkha; The Consulate General of the Republic of Korea; Franci Neely; Carrin Patman and Jim Derrick; Lois Chiles Foundation; ILEX Foundation; L’Alliance Française de Houston; and The Foundation for Independent Media Arts.