Marking Elizabeth Lo’s directorial debut, the film takes a canine’s-eye-view of the streets of Istanbul, and follows three dogs — Zeytin, Nazar and Kartel — as they roam free, offering a unique take on the Turkish city and its inhabitants. The dogs’ lives ultimately intersect when they bond with a group of young Syrians who share the streets with them.
Originally slated to bow in April at the postponed Tribeca Film Festival, Variety critic Tomris Laffly describes “Stray” as conveying “the wholesomeness of humans’ four-legged best friends, but also the soulful voice of an exciting new filmmaker with immense moral queries on her mind.”
The doc joins a small but mighty group of films to set their sights on the stray animals of Istanbul. Ceyda Torun’s critically acclaimed 2016 documentary “Kedi” followed the city’s felines, and grossed $5 million worldwide.
Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia, heralded “Stray” as a “true gift to dog lovers and cinema lovers.” “Elizabeth Lo has delivered an incredible document about the lives of stray dogs in Istanbul,” he said.
Lo added: “I followed and filmed Zeytin, a street dog navigating scorn and mercy within the unique city of Istanbul, so that I could share with audiences a vision of independent canine life that’s hard for many to imagine.
“I feel thrilled and fortunate to work with Magnolia Pictures, a company I’ve long admired for their curatorial integrity, to release ‘Stray’ to audiences in North America,” added Lo.
Ana Vicente, head of sales for Dogwoof, said the film stood out for the distributor “from the beginning.”
“Through the eyes of street dogs, Elizabeth has artfully captured the daily lives and experiences of residents and outsiders. We are pleased that, with this sale, North American audiences can enjoy this unique and special film,” said Vicente.
“Stray” was directed, shot and edited by Lo, produced by Lo and Shane Boris, and co-produced with Ceylan Carhoglu and Zeynep Köprülü. Executive producer is Ina Fichman, while associate producer is Zeynep Aslanoba. An original score is by Ali Helnwein with sound design from Ernst Karel (“Leviathan,” “Manakamana”).
The deal was negotiated by Magnolia EVP Dori Begley and Magnolia SVP of acquisitions John Von Thaden with Ana Vicente, head of sales for Dogwoof, on behalf of the filmmakers.
Dogwoof will present the film to buyers during the Cannes Virtual Marché du Film later this month. A U.K. release is planned for later this year.
The “Stray” deal joins a slate of recent pick-ups for Magnolia, which also bought North American rights to the Johnny Depp-produced doc “Crock of Gold – A Few Rounds with Shane McGowan,” on The Pogues frontman.