NYU professor and alum Todd Solondz screened his film “Wiener-Dog” at the Cantor Film Center on Thursday night to much laughter. The film had its world premiere earlier this year at Sundance, and served as the opening for the Tisch School of the Arts’ 2016 Fusion Film Festival, which celebrates women in the film industry. Director Solondz was present at the event, as well as producer Christine Vachon who’s been named the festival’s Woman of the Year.
With a cast featuring Danny DeVito, Zosia Mamet, Greta Gerwig and Ellen Burstyn, “Weiner-Dog” follows the journey of a dachshund as she goes through different owners, different names and different phases of life. The story begins with her adoption from the kennel by a lonely little boy who names her Weiner-Dog. The relationship is short-lived, however, as a rather graphic diarrhea debacle results in her being taken to the kennel with the intention of being put down. Instead, the dog moves from owner to owner all of whom, despite each being a brief vignette, are fully realized characters.
Although Weiner-Dog is the titular character and the only constant presence throughout the film, she is used more to elevate the absurd and eccentric human characters. While the film remains lighthearted, its darker undertones add an element of absurdity and discomfort, shown in one particularly morbid scene that lasts just long enough to create unease.
Following the screening, audience members were treated to a Q&A with Solondz and Vachon. Attendees were eager to know about the director and producer’s opinions on animals and their inspiration for making the film.
His advice for making it in the film industry was simply: “You just make something up and hope you get lucky.”
The discussion concluded with a question about the position of women in the film industry.
“In the past 25 years, I think some of the differences and progress has been things like when I first started working in film, there were no women on the crew whatsoever,” Vachon said. “We’d be like, ‘That’s a girl DP!’ That was kind of big deal. Now when you see women behind the camera and in other jobs you don’t think about it.”
Vachon also commented on the disparate representations of females in film.
“The big thing now is how do we change those statistics?” Vachon said. “Some of what I think will change those statistics is that inward thinking, like, how can we be better? ‘Will you be bringing in a diverse group of directors?’ Well, yeah, we will. We try to always do that.”
“Wiener-Dog” was acquired by Amazon at Sundance and will be released later this year.
A version of this article appeared in the March 7th print edition. Email Daria Butler at [email protected]