The Lost Dog was produced by New Century Films in China and with a veritably Situationist ethos, has not widely published the names of the authors and actors. It was awarded the World Film Carnival Singapore Outstanding Achievement Award and was awarded the Best Short Film of the Canadian Cinematography Awards, in addition to several selections of prestigious festivals.
The comedy begins early, a starving Asian man finds a lost dog wearing clothes. This by itself is absolutely hilarious! He asks his girlfriend to cook the dog and despite her protest, he leaves to buy carrots for the stew. In the meantime the rich couple who owns the dog is about to get divorced unless the rich husband finds the dog, so he offers a reward.
The starving man sees the rewards poster and hijinks ensue as the poor couple wait to see how high the rich couple will raise the rewards. The comedy quickly becomes moral instruction as a Falun Gong couple finds the escaped dog and returns it, refusing the reward.
A culturally significant discussion like this cannot be ignored. Falun Gong, a spiritual group that is persecuted by the Chinese government, is founded upon ChiGong principles. These spiritual warriors keep themselves separated from the ordinary materialistic Chinese business people, as we see when they refuse the money from the rich couple.
This refusal is a repudiation of the Chinese traditional practice of guanxi, or “relationship”, which since ancient times recognizes trusted people with material support for their existence. Food, home, money, and family belong to the concept of guanxi, meaning that the rich couple offered to adopt the Falun Gong as their family and were refused.
Of course, in Communist China, guanxi has become synonymous with corruption and bribery. In essence, the Falun couple is establishing a position of moral superiority over the crass materialism of the rich couple. They also save the dog from the equally crass materialism of the poor couple.
However, by looking down on the rich couple, they violate the primary tenet of their own Daoist principle, non-duality, in order to experience the satisfaction of refusing the power of money. On the other hand, the rich couple’s sister who is a policewoman still recognizes the guanxi by canceling the arrest of the Falun couple, and canceling her brother’s debt to them. Thank goodness!
The level of concern about the exchange of life force energy that is evident in this film demonstrates how high a priority it is in Chinese culture. Debts can be emotional or cultural as well as financial. Repayment and balance of energies are not always perceived by the receiver.
I think of the example of Star Wars, where Luke Skywalker’s mentor Yoda dies just as Luke conquers his inner obstacles. Yoda’s mantle is passed to his successor and his presence in the material plane is no longer needed. As the apprentice surpasses the master, the energy between them is transferred. This type of obsession with energetic exchanges is typical of Asian culture.
The Lost Dog is an adorable film, well executed and somehow manages to envelop the mandatory moral message in an absurd and entertaining package of pastiche and satirical portrayal of stereotypes.
You can view the film for yourself on YouTube at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=D8Td9DVQrh0
Malian Lahey is a singer and actress working in Los Angeles.