#REVIEW: “THE DANCING DOGS OF DOMBROVA”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
When we first meet Sarah (Katherine Fogler) and Aaron (Douglas Nyback), they are alone at a train station late at night somewhere in Poland. Their conversation is contentious and sarcastic. We learn they are siblings and have been estranged for years. A car’s headlights beam into the darkness and the 2 travellers get into a car that may or may not be a taxi. Thus begins the charming, surreal Canadian Dramedy THE DANCING DOGS OF DOMBROVA.
Sarah and Aaron are in Poland on a mission to bring back the bones of their grandmother Bubbie’s dog that she left behind decades ago when she immigrated to Canada. Bubbie is dying and wants her beloved dog Piotr to be buried alongside her. Many things stand in their way to accomplish this goal. Primarily they are not fluent in the language and the address they have for Bubbie’s old home has more than one location. While they try to overcome one obstacle after another (with the help of the silent cabbie who magically appears whenever they need one), we learn that Sarah is unemployed, living in Toronto and is a recovering addict and Aaron has a mid-level government job in Ottawa and is still getting over a failed relationship.
There is an adjective in Polish that we love to use to describe people who are crafty and smart alecky. It’s cwaniak. THE DANCING DOGS OF DOMBROVA introduces us to a slew of these characters our Canadians need to contend with. There is Karolina, the owner of the guest house where Sarah and Aaron are residing in, who may or may not be pregnant by the town’s priest. Alongside the nameless and ever present taxi driver is her teenaged son Bartek who is an amateur sleuth and thinks nothing of accusing people of sexual improprieties to get answers. Add two gangsters at the first destination of the address they were given, an unhelpful mayor of the town and a pistol packing elderly woman, the comedic situations are genuinely funny and the banter between sis and bro are, at times, laugh out loud. But this Movie shines when it explores and tackles the more serious moments as Sarah and Aaron learn more about their heritage and background. The more obstacles they encounter, the closer they become as they re-evaluate how they have led their lives and the missed opportunities they could have shared together. The horrors of World War II and Anti-Semitism still ring strongly.
My issue with THE DANCING DOGS OF DOMBROVA is a personal pet peeve I have versus how skilled and entertaining the Movie is. The Poland depicted is inauthentic. First and foremost is that the letter V does not exist in the Polish alphabet. The town would be named Dombrowa. And all the natives look more Romanian (where the Movie was filmed) than Polish, but the enunciations of the Polish language was fluid.
Director Zack Bernbaum is to be commended for making an engaging Movie that takes the conventional road trip genre to new heights.