Short Docs

Making a documentary about my dog and my family made the isolation of the pandemic so much easier

Filmmaker Danae Elon on creativity, collaboration and women’s voices in film

Filmmaker Danae Elon on creativity, collaboration and women’s voices in film

Quds, Danae Elon's dog, is one of the subjects of her documentary 'Life of a Dog.' (CBC)

Life of a Dog is a short film about motherhood, childhood and two dogs during lockdown. It was written, photographed and directed by Danae Elon and Rosana Matecki. Watch it now on CBC Gem.

When CBC announced the CBC Creative Relief Fund for filmmakers, I was struck by an idea to write a film about women during COVID lockdown.  

I wanted to make a film with other women, to share our stories and combine them into a single film. I didn't want to make the film alone; it was a time for sharing. 

A week before lockdown started, I had returned to Montreal from a conference on women's voice in film in Mexico City.

The conference centred on women in film from a cinematic point of view. What form should our documentaries have as women? How do we tell stories as women? Is there something about a feminine gaze that can challenge not only what we talk about, but the way we construct a story? 

I was thinking deeply about these questions when the Relief Fund was announced. I knew I wanted to seek out women filmmakers in Montreal and share the experience of making a film together, both in content and in form, during this time.

I never thought I would make a film about a dog. But as we walked our dog several times a day, strolling the empty streets of Montreal, I realized that she posed an interesting way of exploring the city. To my amusement, our dog is sort of made for social distancing— any time a stranger comes near she starts to growl.

During this time I discovered the wonder of collaboration. By working with Rosana Matecki, I found not only a friend, but someone I hope to make films with in the future.  

As we worked separately, yet together, we both experienced immense energy and found a common language. Rosana and I would send each other clips and get inspired, each by what the other had done. This is how our collaboration grew; we were building a relationship through images.

We also shared the experience of making a film this way with others. Our collaborators Myriam Maggasouba, our editor, and Peter Venne, our composer, joined us in the same spirit. We felt that we were etching a film, making it with a great spirit and with simple means, almost like writing a short essay. 

This project gave us something to embrace — and that was so important to all of us. We worked when everything was silent. Just waking up in the morning with this purpose made the isolation of the pandemic so much easier. 

When I graduated from NYU film school, the commencement speaker was the late Nora Ephron. She told us that as she began to study and get a degree, it was in order to have something "to fall back on."  

Then she added that this was not true for us — as graduates of film school, we had nothing to fall back on. I've thought about her words ever since I graduated.  

And then when the pandemic hit, and so many people weren't sure what would happen to their livelihoods, I realized that filmmakers live with this our entire lives. Now, the rest of the world was right there with us. 

I say this with a smile and, of course, do not question the experiences of others, but this life has taught me that no matter what happens, we need to keep on striving to make films. Even when the world stands still. Getting through these times is what we know how to do.

Danae Elon