Among the Sundance 2021 shorts program, you can find a sweet short documentary film that follows the life of Snowy, a 24(ish)-year-old turtle who has lived in a small and lonely tank in a family’s basement for pretty much all his life.
I’m gonna be honest: I wanted to slap everyone who appeared during the first few minutes of the doc. We get a bunch of smirking and sarcastic family members talking about Snowy as if he were a thing undeserving of attention. Even the good-natured Uncle Larry, who seemed to be the only one that actually cared about the pet, wasn’t doing himself any favors by thinking that this little, lonely animal was having a great time stuck in a basement.
However, “Snowy” soon turned into an intervention of sorts. Directors Alex Wolf Lewis and Kaitlyn Schwalje took on the task of improving the life quality of the pet turtle and, in order to do so, they sought help from an expert in reptile cognition. Thanks to this, the short manages to inform on interesting facts about the life of the turtle by answering questions such as: Can a turtle be happy? Can a turtle recognize his caretaker?
Thankfully, Snowy’s life is vastly improved by the end of the doc… but that got me thinking of how sad the situation of this and many other house pets must be. In this case, Uncle Larry says he was a great caretaker for the poor thing, but why did a couple of creative filmmakers have to intervene in order for him to realize that his beloved pet would benefit from a bigger area to live in? It’s not rocket science. Why did an expert have to state the obvious for this family to say: “You know what? Maybe we should let this turtle have a stroll in our BIG garden?” Clearly they are good folks, but they exemplify how little people actually care about animals. These interactions were a reminder of how humans keep undervaluing animal life.
As you can appreciate, “Snowy” was quite the trip for me. Despite the goofy tone, I found it to be very philosophical; it kept me thinking about the way humans treat animals, the value we give to our own pets from a young age and how we all have very different priorities. Besides the creativity involved, Lewis and Schwalje managed to craft a compelling film that gives insight into how valuable the lives of living beings are, regardless of their size.
“Snowy” is now available in the Documentary Shorts Program 1.
Ricardo is a Mexico City based bilingual writer, digital animation graduate and awards season nerd. He also enjoys pro wrestling, is a Paddington fan and is the founder of the film website “La Estatuilla.”