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Thursday, December 1, 2016

'SMART' DVD: Documentary on Animal Rescue Team Doing Their Max Well



The December 6, 2016 Cinema Libre Studio DVD release of the 2016 documentary "SMART" is a tribute to the titular unique Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team that operates out of Los Angeles. The service that these no longer unsung heroes perform show that they aptly live in the city of angels.

The following YouTube clip of the "SMART" trailer nicely communicates the dedication of the team and offers a glimpse of their work.


Like all good documentarians, director Justin Zimmerman lets his subjects tell their stories. The primary subject this time is team founder/leader Armando Navarrete. This Eagle Scout is a poster lad for The Boy Scouts of America and shares the relationship between his scout skills and values and S.M.A.R.T.

The early history of the group includes Navarrete discovering the unmet demand for a group capable of difficult rescues of feral and domestic animals. These situations range from house cats stuck in trees to a horse caught in the muck at the bottom of a lake, In between are domesticated dogs stuck in culverts and waterfowl who become entangled in things such as fishing lines.

"SMART" includes copious footage of these rescues. The most prominent one is the rescue of a buck from the back yard of Pee Wee Herman portrayor Paul Reubens. Cute ones involves domestic cats and dogs finding themselves in situations that are more embarrassing than precarious.

A brief diversion into Blogland is necessary to support the view of Navarrete. A cat of your not-so-humble reviewer freaked and became vicious on getting a back leg tangled in a plastic grocery bag. Pleas for help and offers of money were to no avail until an animal rescue volunteer who coincidentally happened to overhear the other end of one such entreaty stated that he would help. He resolved the matter within minutes and was offended by an offer of thanks in the form of money.

As a followup, the cat tragically never recovered from trauma. When the threat of physical harm that he posed to his brother required removing him from the home, finding help once more was very difficult. Last-minute help prevented the desperate measure of somehow getting this now-feral creature out the door and hoping for the best for him. (He still is thought of and missed every day three years later.)

Returning to our primary topic, Navarrete goes on to discuss forming his team despite having virtually no funding or equipment. This portion of the film includes this dog's best friend stating that he has spent $50,000 on team equipment over five years.

The more "sexy" portion of SMART relates to the particularly hazardous rescues. One of these involves a team member plummeting.

Zimmerman additionally puts a human face on his subject by providing personal profiles of Navarrete and his group, The most notable scenes regarding this involve Navarrete discussing his intense commitment to helping animals in distress. As he explains elsewhere in the film, people owe these critters a duty of care based on creating the conditions that lead to them finding themselves in peril.

The DVD extras include a montage of images of Team Navarrete and those whom they rescue.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "SMART" is welcome to either email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.