Film: Barren Lives (Vidas Secas)
Director: Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Performers: Baleia, Átila Iório, Orlando Macedo, Maria Ribeiro, Jofre Soares
Breed featured: Brazilian native dog
Production Information: Luiz Carlos Barreto Produções Cinematográficas/Sino Filmes, 1963 (Brazil)
As described by the title, this is an arid, bleakly rendered film full of desperation and deprivation. One beautiful little dog, Baleia, provides much needed glimpses of hope throughout the film. She is a loved family member — traveling with, sleeping amongst, hunting for and working alongside her migrant family. But in the end, even she is unable to survive the harsh conditions of poverty…
I have no idea what breed she is… or what one might call a Brazilian native dog. She looks like a small Podenco type to me, and even a bit Basenji-like at times, with the lean figure, high tuck, long skinny muzzle and exaggerated, alert ears of the sighthound/pariah dog look that I favor. According to an accompanying short film on the DVD extras, she was known as “Piaba” and spotted at a local market by the film crew. They bought her off a vendor who later admitted that he didn’t even own the dog — she had just been a happy lingerer until her life was forever changed by starring in this film.
Warning: Spoilers in slideshow and text beneath the cut!