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MINE: Documenting the bond between humans and animals

MINE is a heart-wrenching story about the pets of Hurricane Katrina and an insightful commentary on human nature and our relationships with our pets. The film is an exploration of the bond between people and animals and how that bond is intensified in the face of tremendous tragedy and loss.

This feature-length documentary presents the complexity of an intensely emotional situation that has no simple answers. A tragedy like Hurricane Katrina reveals the worst and brings out the best in humankind, and it also presents an opportunity for meaningful social change. This film challenges us see the way we treat animals in our society as an extension of how we treat each other.

Grommet friend Julia Elmer,  was extremely moved by this film after hearing about it from a friend. She caught up with Geralyn Pezanoski, the director of MINE, to find out a bit more about the film.

Malvin Cavalier was separated from his dog, Bandit, during hurricane Katrina. ‘Mine’ chronicles the efforts by Mr. Cavalier (and others) to be reunited with his pet.

by Julia Elmer

The New York Times described MINE as “smart, sincere, and affecting.” How do you believe your film has affected people?

One sentiment I hear echoed from people is that they went in feeling strongly aligned with one side of the custody battles but left having a better understanding of and empathy for people on the other side. A number of people also expressed regret that it didn’t occur to them to get directly involved after Katrina. Seeing the rescuers in the film inspired them to understand the potential impact of individual action.

Your dog, Nola, was a victim of Hurricane Katrina. What role has she played in your desire to tell the story in MINE?

Nola played a huge role in transforming my initial involvement in documenting the rescue efforts into a full-fledged documentary film. Had I not gone through the fostering and adoption process myself, I don’t know that I would have been compelled to explore the intricacies of it. My emotional involvement gave me a perspective that allowed me to tell the story from the inside out.

How many hours of raw footage did you have to sift through when pulling this film together? How long did the production process take?

MINE was about three and a half years in the making, but we shot for over four years because even after the film premiered, our subjects’ stories were still evolving. We had about 140 hours of footage when all was said and done. That’s a lot when you consider the final film is 80 minutes. There are so many stories we didn’t get to tell.

Toward the beginning of the film, one of the animal rescue workers tells us that she was asked why she went to New Orleans to save animals when people were suffering, too. Then, Jessie says toward the end of the film that, “animals let us know we are not alone. We’re not as independent as we think we are.” What do you have to say to those who objected to rescue workers whose aim was to save animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?

First I want to say that I find it unfortunate that people would be criticized for how they decide to volunteer their time. They’re following their conviction and contributing to the betterment of the world.

The criticism targets the fact that some people find it easier to rally around the unmet needs of animals than those of human beings. How many times have you heard someone say they are “more affected seeing an animal suffer than a person – with the exception of a child?”  It makes sense that compassion lie with creatures we perceive to be defenseless. But the bottom line is that a rescuer who saved a dog or a cat, regardless of his or her motivation, had an undeniable impact on another human being in the process whether it was on an adoptive guardian who brought that pet into their family, or on someone like Malvin Cavalier who had lost everything and yearned for the companionship of his pet. You can’t really separate the animal toll from the human because of the profound bond that exists between people and their pets. I think we’re all better off when our compassion extends to include all living beings.

Do you think our country is better prepared to handle pets during the next natural disaster? Will the PETS Act of 2006 make any difference the next time around?

 I think individuals are more aware and empowered now to properly care for their pets in the event of a disaster. The PETS act is definitely making a difference. According to Scotlund Haisley of HSUS, who responds to disasters all over the country, fewer people are leaving pets behind, and more and more shelters are accommodating entire families – humans, felines, canines…

What’s next for you?

Right now I’m working with a small PR firm, to help other independent filmmakers get the exposure they deserve for their films. That’s extremely gratifying for me.

I’m also exploring how MINE can be used to help raise money for animal rescue organizations through shelter screenings and DVD sales. The messages of the film are already so impactful. What a bonus if the film can directly benefit the animals and the people who care for them!

 …And because I have to ask: Is Mr. Cavalier still alive?

YES! And he turned 90 this past January. I was fortunate enough to get to celebrate with him at the MINE premiere in New Orleans.

May 8th is National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day. Why not take a moment to make sure you’re prepared in case we face another natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina?



If you would like to win a copy of MINE for yourself, simply leave a comment on this post. We will randomly select one winner.

General contest rules: To enter, you must be a U. S. resident, and at least 18 years of age and you must leave a comment or question on today’s post. No purchase necessary. The winner will be randomly selected and will receive a win a copy of  MINE . Employees, contractors, and the families of employees and contractors of Daily Grommet, Inc. are not eligible to enter. You are not eligible to win if you have received a prize or giveaway from Daily Grommet in the last six months. Void where prohibited. Contest will run from 8:00 am EST May 5th through 10:00 pm EST May 5th, 2010.


  • Catherine Says:

    Thank you so much for letting us know about this documentary. The plight of animals left behind and rescued during Katrina was just as heart wrenching to me as the human stories. I hope this film, and the efforts of people involved, improve the situation of everyone (human and animal) involved in these kinds of crises.

  • Carol Sandra Hay Says:

    God bless all those wonderful people who give their time to man's best friends. Animals make a huge difference in your life. It is such a blessing that we have volunteers who act in such disasters.

  • Sarah Says:

    This sounds like a life changing experience, and I assume, documentary to watch. Thank goodness there are folks out there who care.

  • Janett Says:

    Cant wait to see the film!

  • Judi Abbott Says:

    I have one of the Katrina strays--she was 5 months old and was feral for a year. She was rescued amd taken into rescue and I adopted her through Petfinder. She is a wonderful dog and I am so privileged to have her in my family. I can't wait to see the film and I hope we are better prepared to care for our pets and the strays which will be inevitable.

  • Ingrid Bock Says:

    I'm very grateful to know about this documentary--thanks! I'm almost afraid to watch it, but I also can't wait to watch it. And this post also made me aware that I need to make a plan for my own pets, and I hadn't realized there's even a special day honoring that. Great job, everyone involved with this documentary and the article about it.

  • Patricia Rain Says:

    Santa Cruz, on the other side of the country from Louisiana, became a central relocation spot for many dogs. It was an honor and privilege to have the animals come to California. I'm very happy that Mine has come out, however, as I think that it's extremely important that people not be separated from their feline or canine family members in a disaster as it's very hard on everyone involved.

    Congratulations, Geralyn Pezanoski for your insightful work and to you Julia Elmer, for an excellent article!

  • janice girardi Says:

    What a wonderful interview, what very important work. I can't wait to see the documentary. Hats off to all of you.

  • Tori Says:

    Congratulations Ingird, you were the random winner chosen to receive MINE. Thank you all for the thoughtful comments.

  • webprit Says:

    God bless all those wonderful people who give their time to man’s best friends.
    Thank You.

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