MINE opens with the familiar, yet always harrowing, news footage of the victims of Hurricane Katrina trapped inside homes – or outside on roofs – of their deluged city.
And often times you can see an anxious dog or cat who is struggling to survive right along with its owner.
MINE follows half a dozen New Orleans residents who became separated from their pets during Hurricane Katrina and the owner’s quest to be reunited with the one they love.
Many would argue that the residents of New Orleans simply abandoned their pets during Katrina and therefore the pets were better off with new owners. But for those residents who were rescued from their homes by the National Guard they were told that pets simply could not come along.
And even those who were lucky enough to escape the rising waters with their pets in tow found that the Super Dome, the temporary housing set up by the City, barred animals from entering.
So in many instances owners with pets during the Hurricane Katrina were given this choice: it’s either you or your pet.
Seeing the unfolding drama on news reports, a group of concerned animal lovers immediately descended upon New Orleans and started on an impassioned mission to rescue as many cats and dogs that they could.
But once rescued the logistical nightmare of trying to reunite the pets with their rightful owners became overwhelming. Shelters were at capacity and stopped taking in animals and so many pets were shipped out to shelters in other states – only to be eventually adopted by new families throughout the country.
At the heart of MINE is the overarching question: Who is the rightful owner of the pet and in what instance would/should someone return a pet to its original guardian? Is this a legal issue or a human decency issue?
Fortunately for some of the residents of New Orleans who were separated from their animals during Katrina human decency does win out and they are reunited with their pets. For one resident, Jessie Pullins, his long, hard fought search for his dog J.J. culminated in a joyful reunion almost four years after Katrina. But the fight over who should have legal rights over a pet – the original guardians/owners or the adoptive owners – continues to play out within the legal system.
That there is an incredible bond formed between humans and their animals should come as no surprise. But set against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina MINE highlights the struggles, both legally and morally, that can take place when two families love the same pet.
MINE, an Audience Award winner at SXSW in 2009, screens at SIFF Cinema from January 21st through January 27th. Click here for show times and ticket information.
Read for more from Michael Nank on film, theater, music and more — or follow him on twitter at: twitter.com/mikeunited