YES! Filmmaker(s) Attending for Q&A

Sat Feb 25, 2023 – 12:00 pm | La Casa Grande
Tue Feb 28, 2023 – 5:30 pm | Downtown Beloit Association

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The Year of the Dog

Directed by Andrew McGinn, Michael Peterson & Robert Grabow
Narrative Feature
United States | 96 min | 2022

MATT (mid-30s, white) is an alcoholic who’s made a mess out of his personal relationships, to say nothing of his stomach. After getting locked in a drunk tank, MATT emerges with 48 hours of sobriety, only 28 days (and a whole lifetime) to go. Matt takes refuge at his sponsor FRED’s (40s, indigenous) farm, outside of a close-knit Montana town known, oddly, for dog pulls. Fred is a book-thumping AA follower determined to help Matt string 30 days of abstinence together so Matt can visit his mom in hospice. She has one dying wish—to see Matt sober.

Matt is his own worst nightmare—short-fused, stubborn, and erratic. His self-esteem is shot from years of failing, yet he’s convinced he must find and maintain sobriety on his own. Everything changes when Matt finds a mutt on Fred’s property—that’s right, a stray dog has infiltrated Fred’s barn and is licking the chickens. Despite Fred’s objections, Matt keeps the dog, jokingly naming him Youpick (later learning the true spelling, Yup’ik). Yup’ik is a handful—stubborn, erratic, and short-fused. Fred’s concerns soon come true. Still tackling withdrawal, Matt isn’t equipped to take care of Yup’ik, but his attempts to get rid of him prove futile. Soon, Yup’ik endears himself to Matt, and focusing on Yup’ik is actually helping Matt to live ‘day by day.’

Matt meets JULIE (30s), a delivery woman and ex dogsledder, who recognizes that Yup’ik is a ‘pull dog.’ Initially skeptical, Matt harnesses him and discovers this runt can pull—A LOT! Julie suggests competing in a local pull. Yup’ik is indeed a rare talent who could go far—maybe far enough to beat the strongest dog in the state, SAMPSON. Sheer natural ability isn’t enough; to pull dogs, you don’t just need to harness your dog but your own emotions. You must deeply and emotionally connect with your dog, build trust, and not fly off the handle. There’s a big hill ahead if Matt’s going to learn how to gain the skills to win. Matt’s got to enlist help, specifically from Julie, who can’t quite get out of her famous dogsledding mother’s shadow, and of GREG (50s, indigenous), a renowned dog trainer. Matt must train Yup’ik, but really, Matt’s got to train himself. Meanwhile, his self-destructive demons are chasing at his heels. The Year of the Dog is a story about finding connections in usual places and what it takes to pull through to the finish line.

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The Film Stage

A revered acting teacher and mentor of mine, who passed away recently, imparted me with a standard for art that will remain with me forever. “Art,” she said, “is a place where societies have gone historically to engage the big existential questions: Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going?”

During every stage of The Year of the Dog, from page to post, her words rang in my spirit, and I pondered how our film would engage these existential questions in a meaningful way. I landed on a couple of clear answers. In the film, the protagonist, Matt, faces emotional challenges he’s unable to tackle alone; it’s ultimately connection with others (and with one special dog) that allows him the capacity to heal. He must look outside himself to really look inside himself. The importance and challenges of developing connection are the soul of The Year of the Dog.

Another guiding light for the film, captured by the seminal Leonard Cohen verse, bears mentioning here: “Ring the bell that still can ring; forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Our cracks can feel at times like an overwhelming hardship, destined, in this fractured political and social clime that extends from Kyiv, Ukraine, to my hometown of Livingston, Montana (and seemingly every place in-between), to break us. However, I hope this film, with its idiosyncratic, artistic rhythm and warm-hearted, moody ethos (we affectionately call it “Dark Disney”), reminds us to recognize the beauty in our “cracks.”

I believe that a path toward healing requires us to cultivate empathy and connection, to collect our cracks into one common light that pours through with compassionate ferocity.

The Year of the Dog - Poster

The Year of the Dog - Andrew McGinnAndrew McGinn,

Andy graduated from Juilliard with a BFA in Acting and has an MFA in Directing from the University of Washington. Andrew has taught acting and directing for 20 years at Seattle University, Cornish College of the Arts, Freehold Theatre, and now at Interlochen School of the Arts, where he specializes in directing professional Shakespeare productions.

The Year of the Dog - Michael Peterson Michael Peterson

For twenty years, Michael Davis Peterson has pursued a unique and winding path in the film industry. Early in his career, at age 20, he achieved a dream position in the Hollywood film industry as a special makeup effects artist. At age 29 he opened his own Makeup design studio, Image Alchemy Productions which became the largest Special Makeup effects studio in Arizona. After 6 years Michael decided to change focus to Producing, Directing, and Writing film and video content. Over the last 5 years Michael has dedicated himself to the art of filmmaking with a youthful enthusiasm. Since changing career trajectory, Michael has sold screenplays, produced countless video content for web, and TV , and a hand full of short films. He is attending MSU film school and is working towards his masters in filmmaking. In 2017 he won the prestigious Presidential Emerging Scholar grant for film making and in 2018 spent four weeks in Morocco shooting a documentary on an indigenous community in the High Atlas mountains. Michael works closely with clients and filmmakers on projects that became successful at telling impactful stories with integrity and insight. For Michael, each project is special and unique. On every project, relationships are formed, content is created and distributed. On every project Michael’s intention is to tell a truthful stories that escorts him as he builds his own path, brick by brick.

The Year of the Dog - Rob Grabow Robert Grabow

Rob Grabow studied acting at Freehold Theatre and the Gregg Gilmore acting studios in Seattle, The Bill Esper Studio, and the Actor’s Studio and Drama School MFA program at Pace University in New York. A successful entrepreneur who founded a multimillion dollar online team sports apparel company in his college dorm room, Rob is also a published author, who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, and had an hour-long book presentation air in its entirety on C-Span’s Book TV. He is a former blogger for CNN, a former intern at Rolling Stone Magazine, and holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University where he graduated in the top 7% of his class. He has also lived in and traveled to over 50 countries and speaks Near-natively fluent German, proficient Spanish and Italian, and some French, Turkish, and Farsi.

Film Information

Director: Andrew McGinn, Michael Peterson, Robert Grabow
Country: United States
Year: 2022
Language: English
Runtime: 96 min
Rated:  PG-13


Writer: Robert Grabow
Producer: Robert Grabow, Heather Hanley
Cinematography: George Potter
Music:Tim Karplus
Editor: Don Andrews, Michael Peterson

Connect With This Film

Principal Cast

BIFF - Beloit International Film Festival
BIFF | Beloit International Film Festival