Katrina was one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history. It not only displaced thousands of people, it also left thousands of dogs and cats homeless. Too many to be cared for locally, many of these companion animals were transported across the nation to be fostered—and often, adopted—by others. As time passed and their original guardians tried to reclaim them, the stage was set for emotional confrontations between the people who had been forced to leave their beloved pets behind and the people who had taken them in. Mine records some of these dramatic and often heart-wrenching stories.
Co-founder of Smush Media, Geralyn Pezanoski makes her feature directorial debut with Mine. In the midst of getting ready for the film’s January premiere, the woman behind the camera took time to talk to us about this important new documentary.
Bark: What inspired you to create Mine?
Geralyn Pezanoski: A few weeks after Katrina, I organized a volunteer crew to travel to New Orleans, where we filmed rescue efforts and then created public service announcements to benefit the Humane Society of Louisiana. The idea of the documentary came later, spurred by the question, “What would I do if someone came forward to claim Nola?” We experience some of the greatest joys and deepest sorrows through our relationships with our pets, so naturally, this was a very emotional subject. As a result of this unprecedented tragedy, thousands of people had been separated from their animal companions, and thousands of animal lovers had rescued, adopted and nurtured these animals back to health. All were deeply invested. I empathized with people on both sides of the custody battles, and felt compelled to tell their stories.
B: Tell us about Nola; did she play a part in your decision to make the film?
GP: Nola’s a sweet, snaggle-toothed Boxer mix with a lot of southern charm. I met her at Best Friends’ Tylertown, Miss., hurricane relief center on Oct. 24, 2005, almost two months to the day after Katrina. Found wandering on the streets, she was skin and bones and pretty skittish, but a total ball of love. My relationship with her absolutely inspired me to make Mine.
B: How did you deal with the emotions this subject evokes?
GP: I was driven by an overwhelming need to help the animals, and filming was a means to that end, but there were times I questioned how much good I was actually doing with a camera crew instead of a crow bar. Like the rescuers we filmed, I struggled with feelings of not being able to do enough to save animals who were still in the direst of situations.
B: Which film moment do you feel speaks most to its theme?
GP: Watching it now, I’m brought back to the compassion and conviction of the volunteers I met in and around New Orleans. They fought their way into this toxic city in order to rescue animals who would have had no chance of survival without them. They didn’t wait for someone to tell them what to do; for the most part, they had no support, and they certainly didn’t follow the rules. But they made a huge difference in the lives of thousands of animals and the people who love them. There are also many amazing organizations from across the country that we never had the honor of meeting or filming. Mine is an homage to all of their hard work and dedication.
B: What message would you like viewers to take away from your film?
GP: At its core, Mine is really a recognition of the intrinsic value of animals and a celebration of the deep bonds we share with them. If people leave the theater wanting to go home and love on their dog or go to their local shelter and adopt a cat, I’d feel pretty good about that!