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Stray Dog

From Debra Granik, director of the Oscar-nominated 'Winter's Bone', comes this portrait of a motorcycle-riding, freedom-loving, Vietnam veteran cast in the mold of an outlaw biker. But there's much more to burly, bearded Ronnie 'Stray Dog' Hall than meets the eye. Below the surface, Stray Dog is forever wrestling with the brutal legacy of the Vietnam War — a constant struggle of conscience, remorse, and forgiveness.

The film, shot with humility and grace, follows Stray Dog as he caravans on his Harley with fellow vets to pay tribute to their fallen brothers at the Vietnam Memorial. Meanwhile, back home in southern Missouri where he owns and operates an RV Park populated by a community on the margins, he forges a new life of domesticity with his Mexican wife Alicia.

As Stray Dog strives to be the man he wants to be for his family and community, he continues to tally the cost of war, bearing witness to the soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan — both the dead and the living.

'Stray Dog is more than an intimate portrait of a Vietnam veteran. It's a subtle social commentary on the dynamics of class, race, and citizenship in twenty-first century rural America. It will no doubt become a staple of college courses on recent American history and military culture. This film is essential viewing for anyone who believes that 'supporting the troops' is more than a slogan on a bumper sticker.' John M. Kinder, Associate Professor of American Studies, Oklahoma State University, Author, Paying With Their Bodies: American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran

'Stray Dog challenges its viewers to see how even a wounded life, unfolding in a trailer park, sustained on a VA disability, can display enough love, kindness, integrity, compassion, generosity, and honor that it puts many if not most of us to shame. If this film doesn't haunt you, than you may be either an angel or an alien.' Robert Emmet Meagher, Professor of Humanities, Hampshire College, Author, Killing from the Inside Out: Moral Injury and Just War

'A remarkable portrait not only of this particular man, but of a culture in a transitioning moment. As we welcome home even more generations of traumatized soldiers, it's the Vietnam vets that we have to look to understand how this will affect these men and women down the road.' Katie Walsh, indieWIRE

'Heart-breaking and heart-warming...Incredibly nuanced and intricate. The film opens an interesting and important dialogue for educators and community leaders to facilitate around the complex, multiple layers of the human condition over the lifespan...Through our efforts to actively interpret his story and explain his involvement as a loving and committed husband, father, stepfather, grandfather, friend, comrade, and community member, we gain further insights that serve us and our communities well.' Dr. Francesca Adler-Baeder, Director of Center for Children, Youth, and Families, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University

'[A] superb slice of American life on the margins...In an era when many coastal Americans' ideas of the heartland poor come from hicksploitation TV series, Stray Dog provides a very welcome corrective.' Andrew Barker, Variety

'Superb documentary...Stray Dog offers the most authentic cinematic portrayal of a veteran's postwar experience I have seen. Highly recommended for anyone interested in guiding conversations about men and women who endure combat and then struggle with civilian life.' David J. Danelo, Director of Field Research, Foreign Policy Research Institute, Author, The Return: A Field Manual for Life after Combat

'Novelistic in its depth and breathtaking in its humanity.' Bile Ebiri, Vulture

'Stray Dog is valuable in many ways - as the sympathetic documentation of a family's perseverance in hard times; as an example of compassionate cinema verite; as a chance to spend time with some very interesting people - but perhaps its greatest virtue lies in its powerful, implicit challenge to the lazy habit of looking at American life through polarized red- and blue-tinted lenses.' A.O. Scott, The New York Times

'A stirring, surprising, empathic portrait of a Harley-riding trailer-court king.' Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice

'The clear-eyed film dedicates itself to breaking through the debris of cliched, one-dimensional public impressions of vets, bikers, immigrant wives and kids and trailer-park lifestyles as it fashions an involving portrait of a deeply scarred man sustained by certain rituals and an unextinguished sense of empathy for others' problems.' Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

'Sympathetic without being sentimental or condescending...An enormously touching, understated look at an aging Vietnam veteran...Utilizes an observational, unobtrusive style that reaps major rewards, offering a casual glimpse into a series of lives on the margins of American society, touching on family, faith, love and survival with an effortless grace.' Tim Grierson, Screen International

'Stray Dog ponders some of the major issues in American life: the lasting impact of wars on those who fight them; the government's treatment of veterans, whose lives remain largely absent from public view; and the difficulties of immigration and assimilation. It's a film that starts as a character study and builds into something much larger.' Ben Kenigsberg, A.V. Club

'Debra Granik's first documentary observes the finest tensions and frustrations the combat veteran works through via compassionate gestures and a simple family life. Lovely film with a perfect ending.' Steven Boone, Roger

'This is a film that blows apart your preconceived notions of how a documentary can be put together. It is a perfectly told story with vivid characters, an acute sense of place and many marvelous emotional beats.' Dan Schindel, Nonfics

'It vibrantly encompasses the themes of middle American poverty, immigration, the changing times, the unchanging tragedies, the complex feelings of loss, disorientation, mourning, confusion, anger and finally, some sort of redemption.' Marina Galperina, Animal New York

'By focusing on Ron Hall's experience, Stray Dog ends up being 'about' a lot of topics: veteran's affairs and welfare; post-traumatic stress disorder; aging; changing definitions of 'family' and 'masculinity'; immigration, language and, well, the American Dream.' James Kreul, Madison Film Forum

'Granik has a bona fide star in Hall, whose hirsute appearance and occasionally gruff demeanor mask his overall sensitivity and salt-of-the-earth compassion.' Eric Ambler, Screen Invasion

'Stray Dog is proof that the universal lies within the specific. By simply spending time with one man with our eyes and ears open, we can learn untold volumes about the world at large.' David Bax, Battleship Pretension


Main credits

Granik, Debra (film director)
Rosellini, Anne (film producer)
Stewart, Victoria (film producer)
Stewart, Victoria (editor of moving image work)

Other credits

Cinematographer, Eric Phillips-Horst; editor, Victoria Stewart; music supervisor, Maredith Sisco.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Conflict Resolution
Family Studies
Film Studies
Mental Health
Multicultural Studies
Rural Studies
War and Peace


Debra Granik; "Stray Dog"; Bullfrog Films; Vietnam War; veteran; Missouri; biker; poverty; PTSD; Iraq; Afghanistan; multi-ethnic; rural; immigration; coexistence; conscience;

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