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Presented by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program

Now, more than ever, research is being done that is giving humans a better understanding of the animal world, about interspecies connection, and a deeper curiosity into the lives and thoughts of animals. For example, in an article published in 2020, professors and graduate students at UCLA studied species play behavior and found that they laugh. As animal behavior is becoming more known, the similarities and the deep connections that we share with them become ever more significant.

In this survey of films, the spotlight moves away from the humans and onto the companion, the creature or the animal present in the frame. Through classic films like Umberto D. and Kes, a dog and a predatory bird provide necessary comfort and hope to often hopeless situations. Four-legged felines are the mischievous tricksters in the films Bell Book and Candle and The Cassandra Cat. Assisting animals and intervening in their world — sometimes too much so — are documented in The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill and Grizzly Man. And more poetic musings about our own mortality and human nature are explored through relationships with animals, as in Heart of a Dog and Gates of Heaven. By looking closer at the interactions of humans and animals, our own nature and our values are revealed, especially when love, trust and connection are a part of it. These films are likely familiar but in this context are having you look closer at the non-human creatures, perhaps to offer a different perspective, and reflect on what these relationships say about us.

Please note: some of the films depict animal death.

Past Events in this Series

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