Film Reviews

Doc Edge Film Review: Who Let The Dogs Out (2019)

Roger Bowie

Welcome to the Oscar-qualifying Doc Edge Film Festival 2020. Life Unscripted. Online Nationwide in New Zealand from Friday 12 June until Sunday 5 July.

Browse our full line-up of 83 of the world’s best documentary feature films and shorts here.

Who let the dogs out?  I mean who let them out? Why? How? Why has such a question which has arguably been asked more than any other question in pop history, never been answered?

That’s what Ben Sisto wondered when he embarked on a journey, prompted by a missing surname in Wikipedia, to find the surname of the hairdresser who has not had an approved attribution in the Wiki about the song. Who goes through life with half a name?

Who let the dogs out

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The song Who Let The Dogs Out became a hit in 2000 for the Bahamian Junkanoo (now there’s a new genre for you) band, The Baha Men.

But, as one protagonist in the long list of claimants to ownership rights in the song says: “when there’s a hit, there’s a writ”.

And so, Ben’s eight-year quest for the origins of the song and the answer to the question is now being told in quirky fashion by Ben himself in the form of a stand-up comedy like  routine, except this one has props, and clips, and technical wizardry, and is part heroic journey, part education, and part tragedy of how the music industry doesn’t work. Especially when a nondescript song becomes a hit. Especially for young aspiring songwriters so driven by passion and enthusiasm that the heady notions of copyright are way out of their scope of thought. And so, copyright truly does end up being the right to copy.

Ben’s journey to become the world’s expert in something (anything) takes him  across the USA, down into the Caribbean and across the ditch to London to find hairdresser Keith, who back in the day (that would be the 90s) used to travel to Trinidad to enjoy the music and brought back snippets of songs on cassettes to share with the A & R men who frequented his salon. It takes him to football fields and secret studios which specialise in data preservation. It brings back cassettes and floppy disks and early recording machines. And who should pop up but Jonathan King, still mooning about despite his early 2000s conviction and jail sentence for sexual crimes, with his flash sports car and crooked smile still intact after more than 70 years. This is the man who discovered Genesis and could easily have discovered Donald Trump, such is his panache for self-promotion (but that’s an aside, and completely fake news).

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Brent Hodge directs this hour-long twisted tale which travels down less trodden highways and bi-ways and casts light on otherwise ignored aspects of North American and music culture. And (spoiler alert) we learn to distinguish between a song, a hook and a chant. Or not. Worth an hour of quirky time. Check it out.

Who Let The Dogs Out is available June 19

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Written By: Roger Bowie Roger Bowie has been collecting music since 1964, starting with 45 rpm singles, and then building an LP and CD collection from 1970. 1.8 per week since then. Not a vast collection, but eclectic and occasionally obscure. Roger is a big Americana fan, and regularly attends AmericanaFest in Nashville, held every September. Also, he once played golf with Alice Cooper...