When Hurricane Katrina left more than 250,000 pets stranded, the infrastructure of a nation-wide dog rescue effort was born. Since then, millions of Southern rescue dogs have been transported to new homes thanks to the tireless efforts of a grassroots network of dog rescuers. And while the media has popularized the image of dogs climbing out of transport trucks into the arms of eager adopters, little attention has been paid to the other side of the story. FREE PUPPIES! travels across the country’s political divide to explore one of the many areas where no public animal services exist, and volunteers — many of them women — step in. The story follows rescuers Monda Wooten, Ann Brown, and Ruth Smith, and the network of independent “rescue ladies” who patrol vast rural counties in the Tennessee Valley caring for stray and surrendered dogs. Their grassroots efforts to start up a spay-and-neuter program, rescue countless dogs from euthanasia and neglect, and place them in loving “forever homes” will pluck at the heartstrings of any dog person. Co-director Samantha Wishman (Christina Thomas) and film subject Monda Wooten joins us to talk about the national crisis of lost, abused and shelterless animals, the reasons why the South has an epidemic of unrescued dogs and the volunteers and organizations that are stepping forward so that you can have your own free puppy / kitten.
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About the filmmaker – Samantha Wishman is a filmmaker from New York City. After graduating from Columbia Law School, she moved to LA to make a short film about pitching a script for a feminist softball comedy in Hollywood, which went on to play at a number of festivals. She adopted a rescue dog named Billie Hollydale before returning home to make FREE PUPPIES!.
About the filmmaker – Christina Thomas is a producer, director and editor from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduating from The University of Pennsylvania she moved to Los Angeles where she has worked on several productions including commercials, shorts and features. FREE PUPPIES! is her documentary directorial debut. She enjoys giving equal attention to her dogs Harvey and Ruphus.
About the subject – Rescuer Monda Wooten is a dog rescuer, business owner, and city commissioner in Trenton, Georgia. Monda works with Ann, Ruth and several other rescuers helping to facilitate low-cost spay/ neuter, transport, and adoptions. She has been fighting for over sixteen years to get public support and public funding for a local animal shelter. In the meantime, Monda and her friend Ann take matters into their own hands.
“The film achieves its goal in raising awareness for these volunteer efforts, casting a spotlight on a chronically overlooked crisis.” – Claire Shaffer, New York Times
“If you love furry creatures great and small, you will revel in the heart-warming documentary Free Puppies!” – Susan Wloszczyna, AWFJ Women on Film
“A film for dog lovers, dog rescuers, and really anyone who can appreciate a simple, sentimental and inspirational documentary.” – Richard Propes, TheIndependentCritic.com
“Warm, empowering and inspirational. It will make you stand up and cheer!” – Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru