Raindance Film Festival 2021 Capsule Review: A Family That Steals Dogs

Written by Alexander Reams


Reflection is often our own therapy. Reflecting on what has been happening in your life, the choices you’ve made, so they can help influence your future decisions. Such is the case for Writer/Director/Narrator John C. Kelley. Following an artist after a death in the family as he retreats to a cabin to reflect on his grief, the family, and his own mental illness. Utilizing the animation medium to convey his frustrations through a narrative that seems all too real. With most of his dialogue being very nihilistic and philosophical, Kelley truly exposes the raw nature of this film. It’s to vent, to verbalize his frustrations. This is what set A Family That Steals Dogs apart from most animation that I’ve seen this year. The raw nature of Kelley’s dialogue, as well as the animation style. He opted for hand-drawn, and not hand-drawn that is converted to look like traditional animation, the film looks like a first draft of animation, and the film is elevated to another level because of this. I love hand-drawn animation and without it here who knows if the film could’ve been as affecting as it was. My only issue with the film is that it is too short. I wanted more, this very much feels in the vein of Don Hertzfeldt, particularly It’s Such a Beautiful Day, mainly due to his nihilistic and existential themes, which run rampant throughout both films. I loved what this film had to say. Kelley is clearly a new voice but his raw talent cannot be denied and should be celebrated.

A Family That Steals Dogs Short Film

A Family That Steals Dogs was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Raindance Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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