Pis for puppy — protector, pal and partner.
It’s also for Potomac, Primrose, Poppett, Phil and Patriot — the adorable canine stars of the new “service dogumentary” film “Pick of the Litter.”
Written by Dana Nachman and co-produced and co-directed with Don Hardy, the documentary premiered to rave reviews at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, earlier this year. (It will be screened at The Picture House in Pelham Oct. 5.)
Nachman, who grew up in Rye Brook, is an award-winning filmmaker of both feature and documentary films. Her honors include three regional Emmy Awards, The Edward R. Murrow Award and dozens of jury and audience Awards at film festivals.
She and Hardy, friends and former colleagues at NBC’s San Francisco affiliate, had written about guide dogs and knew there was so much more of a story that needed to be told. Their film documents a two-year journey of a litter of five Labrador puppies, “The P Litter,” born on June 2, 2015. The pups were all on the quest to see if they had the right stuff to become an official guide dog for the blind. Only the cream of the crop makes it through the rigorous, three-step program to become a trained guide dog, for whom getting it right is often a matter of life and death.
The filmmakers received unprecedented access to handlers, staff and clients in order to capture the puppies’ journey. In a recent interview, Nachman said “the film is so much more than puppies. It’s about people coming together to help other people. The dogs are simply amazing. They are responsible for their humans 100 percent of the time.”
Among the surprising things Nachman learned, a true guide dog will possess “intelligent disobedience” whereby it will disobey a direct order (normally a big no-no) if the dog perceives a threat to its owner. He or she will keep the owner safe, in spite of the command, a remarkable ability and sign of a truly gifted dog.
The film takes us on an emotional journey to learn who will make the grade. Who will become, as they say, “career-redirected”? Who will become the “pick of the litter?”