Eerie, chilling, and raw. Of God and Dogs is a film that punches you in your ethical and theological gut. It leaves you unsettled and horrified at the realities of life amid violence in the Middle East.
Produced by the Abounddara Collective, this documentary short is the latest installment in their low-budget, high-impact videos aimed at giving viewers an unfiltered look into life from the other side. There are no filmmaking theatrics in this video. It simply consists of a young Syrian man recounting the night he killed an innocent man in cold blood. The entire monologue is framed with a tight crop on the killer’s face, but the indescript mise en scene fits perfectly.
As the story unfolds, the horrific reality of a world so vastly different than ours, rudely confronts your sense of humanity and the insulated lives many of us live. In the film, the young man leads steadily to his admission of killing. Indeed he is a murderer. But to the pensive viewer the question emerges, did he commit an act of evil, or did he commit an act of mercy?
With remorse and struggle he describes the night he confronted a gang of ruthless mercenaries as they abused and humiliated an innocent man. These thugs mercilessly beat the man resulting in wounds so severe, he was doomed to death. But that did not stop the mercenaries from continuing their onslaught of abuse on his bloody mass. Unwilling to let the indignity continue, the Syrian grabbed a gun and shot the beaten man to put him out of his misery.
Is this for real? Did that really happen? The raw tears and genuine disgust you feel from the confession compels you to believe his story. But then the ethical dilemmas take hold. Did he do the right thing? What can anyone do? What would I do?
The film ends with his vow to take vengeance on God for forcing him to murder the man. And if you hadn’t noticed already, now the theological rumination begins in earnest. How does he view the sovereignty of God? How does he view the volition of man? Where is God in all of this? Although the video is simple, the conundrums it offers are vexing in its complexity. No wonder the film took home this year’s grand jury prize for best short.