‘Searchdog’: Palm Springs Review

 by Sheri Linden


A documentary takes an intimate look at the extraordinary art of K-9 search, rescue and recovery.

At the center of Searchdog, a clear-eyed and exceptionally affecting documentary, is a man with a calling. Combining his passion for justice and love of animals, the plainspoken hero Matthew Zarrella has become a leading expert in a specialized area of crime solving: K-9 search and rescue. In many cases the rescue begins at the local pound, where Zarrella recruits dogs deemed unmanageable, sometimes saving them from euthanasia... CONTINUE READING AT LINK:


From Michael Rabiger, Author, Filmmaker

"SEARCHDOG shows the connection between a kid who has suffered from dyslexia,  the pain from mockery at his abilities, and his heartfelt commitment to helping others and putting right what has been done to victims.  Matt is wonderfully open and vulnerable. His relationship with animals is extremely touching so that you feel his anguish when Max is dying.  All the patience and repetition that the trainers go through is very telling. I especially liked the way that the film humanizes the police, whose official front has to be rigidly formal. Instead, SEARCHDOG shows the playfulness and naked vulnerability of people who set out to find bodies.

The life and death of Max is a large part of the film, and the restitution of "bad" dogs is another important aspect of the documentary.  I would expect the film to win prizes and greatly help the work such people do. It is a tremendous service to them.

A number of times through the film I had tears in my eyes. It is tremendously moving that this man, and people like him, put so much of themselves into their work and feel the loss of the families of the victims so profoundly."

                                                                -Michael Rabiger, Chicago, IL


From James Morrison, Film Scholar & Author

"SEARCHDOG returns us to some of the original purposes and powers and pleasures of documentary form: it “documents” a compelling process within an important social institution, the operations of which it chronicles carefully and intricately. In that sense it shares common ground with the observational work of Fred Wiseman in technique, but far from simulating Wiseman’s typical critique, this piece is committed to honoring the crucial work of its subjects. We witness a group of individuals, people and animals, banding together into a cooperative unit committed to search-and-rescue operations. The film gets the drama you would expect out of this compelling topic, but its real interest is in the motives and drives of those who do this work, which it presents with unusual empathy and understanding.

A fully realized piece, SEARCHDOG has both a narrative drive and a lyrical eye, with a carefully designed structure and well-crafted rhythm that give it a rare momentum. With its deep attentions to the rescue operations of a Rhode Island unit, the film finds the global in the local; it will be of interest to audiences far beyond that region, nationally and internationally. It is a moving and passionate work."

                                                             -James Morrison, Claremont, CA