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Wednesday 6 May, 2020

Cats, dogs, sheep, cows or whales? We've got them all for you!

Follow the stories of the cats who reign in Istanbul, stubborn cows who will not comply with their farmer's plans or meet the chimpanzees of Jane Goodall, who revolutionised reasearch, in never-before-seen footage.

This list of seven documentaries in the animal kingdom will take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions starring our friends on four paws, hooves or fins...


KEDI / Ceyda Torun / 2016

Cat-lovers of the internet, meet Sari, Duman, Bengü, Gamsiz, Aslan Parçai and Denis, only some of hundreds of Turkish cats roaming the metropolis of Istanbul freely.

For thousands of years they’ve wandered in and out of people’s lives, becoming an essential part of the communities that make the city so rich.

Claiming no owners, the cats of Istanbul live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame — and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt.

In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to the people, allowing them to reflect on their lives in ways nothing else could.

Watch KEDI on  YouTube REDAmazon, iTunes, Microsoft

And watch DocHouse's Q&A with director Ceyda Torun here



TASKAFA, STORIES FROM THE STREET / Andrea Luka Zimmerman / 2013

From the cats of Istanbul to the city's canine population, next up is artist filmmaker Andrea Luka Zimmerman's Taskafa, a reverie featuring the late John Berger reading from his novel King, a story of hope, dreams, love and resistance. 

Despite major attempts by rulers, politicians and town planners over the last 400 years to erase them, Istanbul's street dogs have persisted, thanks to an enduring alliance with small communities that recognize and defend their right to co-exist.

Taskafa gathers the voices of diverse Istanbul residents, shopkeepers and street-based workers, all of whom display a striking commitment to the wellbeing and future of the city’s dogs; a community free of formal ownership but fed and cared for by numerous individuals. 

The film is structured around readings by storyteller, essayist, and critic John Berger, told from the perspective of a dog belonging to a community facing disappearance, even erasure.

In Taskafa , this voice is gifted to a wider community and range of perspectives: to dogs, a city and, finally, to history.


Then watch our Q&A with director Andrea Luka Zimmerman, here


JANE / Brett Morgan / 2017

Drawing on over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage that had been tucked away in the National Geographic archives for over 50 years, award-winning director Brett Morgen tells the story of Jane Goodall, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionised our understanding of the natural world.

Set to a rich orchestral score from legendary composer Philip Glass, the film offers an unprecedented, intimate portrait of Goodall — a trailblazer who defied the odds to become one of the world’s most admired conservationists.

Watch JANE on NetflixYouTubeGoogle Play, Amazon, Disney+ 



In this one-of-kind documentary, Werner Herzog turns his camera on a group of remarkable individuals, "professional dreamers" who work, play and struggle to survive in a harsh landscape of mesmerizing, otherworldly beauty - perhaps the last frontier on earth.

A hidden society at the end of the world.

One thousand men and women live together under unbelievably close quarters, risking their lives and sanity in search of cutting-edge science.

Why include Encounters in a list of films about our animal friends? As well as deep sea creatures and singing seals, look out for a penguin in the grip of an existential crisis.

Watch ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD on YouTube, Google Play, Amazon 



THE MOO MAN / Andy Heathcote & Heike Bachelier / 2016

The remarkable story of a maverick farmer and his unruly cows, filmed over four years on the marshes of the Pevensey Levels.

In an attempt to save his family farm, Stephen Hook decides to turn his back on the cost cutting dairies and supermarkets, and instead stay small and keep his close relationship with the herd. 

However farmer Hook's plans to save the farm do not always go down well with his 55 spirited cows. The result is a laugh-out-loud, emotional roller-coaster of a journey. 

"Heart warming, a tearjerker of a movie about the incredible bonds between man, animal and countryside."

Bertha DocHosue hosted a Q&A with the directors, you can watch it here.

Watch THE MOO MAN on YouTube, Google Play, Reelhouse, iTunes, Amazon



BLACKFISH / Gabriela Cowperthwaite / 2013

Hailed as the film that brought about the end of SeaWorld's live orca shows and breeding programme, Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity.

Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.

This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.

Watch BLACKFISH on YouTube, Google Play, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon



SWEETGRASS / Llisa Barbash & Lucien Castaing-Taylor 

An unsentimental elegy to the American West, Sweetgrass follows the last modern‐day cowboys to lead their flocks of sheep up into Montana’s Absaroka‐Beartooth mountains for summer pasture.

This astonishingly beautiful yet unsparing film reveals a world in which nature and culture, animals and humans, vulnerability and violence are all intimately meshed.

Sweetgrass was one of the early projects to come out of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL). Directed by SEL director Lucien Castaing-Taylor, it's a must for fans of the lab's later films such as Leviathan and Caniba (both also co-directed by Castaing-Taylor). 

Watch SWEETGRASS on iTunes, Amazon, Chili