Now Playing: “Adele and Everything After,” screening at Scruffy City Film and Music Festival

Anyone who has ever loved an old dog will love the idea behind filmmaker Melissa Dowler’s “Adele and Everything After,” though they may be given a moment’s pause by the film’s seemingly sad implications. The movie follows a Boston woman named Marty who suffers from a rare heart condition, and who receives a new lease on life courtesy of a big-eyed black Labrador service dog named Adele.

But with Adele entering her golden years, Marty faces the daunting twin challenges of finding a new canine companion possessed of Adele’s singular abilities, and of letting go of the relationship that has defined and transformed her life for nearly nine years.

But just what does “letting go” mean? Dowler doesn’t want to give away too much, but she acknowledges most dog lovers will probably need a little reassurance on the front end. “There is what you’d call a happy ending,” she says. “But it is a very emotional journey. We warn people to bring Kleenexes, but to know that in the end it will be okay.”

A corporate filmmaker by trade, Dowler had been looking to venture into documentary filmmaking for some time. As fate would have it, her months-long quest for a suitable subject came to an end in her very own downtown Boston apartment building, when she was approached by the lady who lived next door.

“Marty told me she needed to do a fundraiser, and she wondered if I could help her make a video,” Dowler says. “And when she told me her story, what she had been through and her relationship with Adele, I knew this was much more than a fundraiser. This was the documentary I had been looking for.”

Dowler learned that Marty suffered from vasovagal neurocardiogenic syncope, a heart condition characterized by sudden precipitous drops in blood pressure, resulting in unexpected fainting spells. The untreatable condition made a wreck of Marty’s life, rendering her a virtual shut-in, and leading to more than 30 concussions by the time she reached adulthood.

It seems improbable on the face of it, the notion that a dog could be of any assistance to someone with Marty’s problem. But when she looked into the possibility of employing a service animal, she found the Canine Partners for Life non-profit organization, and a solution to her problem in Adele, a black lab who had been trained to anticipate seizures in epilepsy patients.

With little additional training, Adele was able to do the same thing with Marty’s fainting spells. The two became inseparable companions, with Adele learning to perform an astonishing variety of additional tasks, from paying the check at restaurants to hauling clothes baskets back and forth from the apartment laundry room.

“No one really knows how these dogs do what they do,” Dowler explains. “But as soon as Adele got with Marty, she started sensing things. Whenever it happened, she would sit on Marty’s feet, wanting her to sit down. And it completely changed Marty’s life. Suddenly, she could go out and start doing all the things she could never do before.”

But the focus of Dowler’s film is  the painful segue for both dog and owner, the point where the nine-year-old Labrador can no longer perform all of her duties with the vigor that had characterized her youth, and where Marty must let go and learn to place her trust in a new canine friend.

“One thing people may not understand is this is not a normal dog-and-owner relationship,” Dowler says. “These two were together 24-7. If Marty rode an airplane, Adele was there. When she took a shower, Adele was waiting just outside the shower. It was like losing a part of herself.

“She was letting go of a relationship that saved her life. And she was racked with questions. Will I find a new dog? Will the relationship be the same? What will it mean for Adele?”

“Adele and Everything After” debuted in April at the Cleveland Film Festival, its premier drawing SRO crowds to showings on two different screens. Gratified by the reception, Dowler says the successful premiere speaks to the film’s compelling emotional center. “I was able to build a trust with Marty over time, and because of that, she doesn’t hold anything back,” Dowler says. “You really see her struggle.

“My own favorite films are films that make me feel something. And when one of my films makes the audience laugh or cry or gasp, that’s the best reward I can receive as a filmmaker.”

“Adele and Everything After” will screen at Scruffy City Hall Thursday, July 27 at p.m.

Now Playing: “No Roads In,” screening at Scruffy City Film and Music Festival

https://youtu.be/eDjiaxPwY-I

More than just a concert film, more than just another behind-the-music rock doc, “No Roads In” is the story of two men’s quest for artistic truth in a world given over to pre-fabricated entertainments. It chronicles the odyssey of Canadian sound engineer Adam Naugler and singer-songwriter Blake Reid as they seek to record an album of original music in a century-old farmhouse in the middle of a wheat field in southern Alberta. In a recent phone interview, Naugler and Reid discuss the recording project, how they came to work together, and how their musical journey turned into a cinematic one, as well.

Scruffington Post: What was the genesis of “No Roads In?”

Adam Naugler: It started over five years ago. I’m a sound man in the film and TV industry, and I was doing a lot of projects that didn’t inspire me. Lots of reality TV stuff, or as I like to say, “non-reality” TV. I was feeling lost, and I wanted to get back to my craft. I’m passionate about music, and I wanted to do something that would make me feel excited again.

I’m also a country boy at heart. And I wanted to bring those worlds together, my love of music and my love of a certain rural way of life. I started looking for a house to do some kind of recording project in. And I looked through a whole bunch of houses, but somehow, none of them were quit right.”

SP: How did Blake become involved with the film?

AN: I knew I wanted to do a recording project. And although I am a musician myself, I’m not a singer or a songwriter. As it happens, Blake and I have a mutual friend. He had introduced me to a record Blake had done, while we were off filming polar bears in Manitoba in the middle of a snow storm. I had nothing to do but listen to that record, and I was blown away. It drew me in from the first song. He has a way where the words he crafts transport you right into the moment he’s singing about.

Fast forward to 2014. That album had been one of my favorites ever since. I was in Nashville filming a food show, and that same director said, “Hey, Blake’s in town. Let’s all have lunch.” We had lunch, and I started telling Blake about this recording project. And he was into it from the start. From that moment on, we determined to find a way to make this work.

Blake Reid: I always had it in mind to do a live recording project. So when I met Adam, I already had some songs that were very organic, that didn’t fit in with a lot of the commercial country I work in. Then I just started writing more material, just sort of writing without boundaries. It was an opportunity to really get back in touch with who I am as an artist.

SP: Describe the process of finding the house that was eventually used in the film.

AN: The job was to find a house with a story to tell. And while we saw a lot of great houses, there was always something that just wasn’t there. Then one day, I was driving around southern Alberta, and I went down this road I had driven a thousand times before. But this time, I saw the top of a roof that I’d somehow never seen before. This house just looked like it had been set down in the middle of nowhere. It was an empty farmhouse; the last time it was occupied was 1939.

At first, the owner didn’t want anything to do with me. He was not interested in anything I had to say. But it was eating away at me, so I went back again the next day, and I wouldn’t leave. I told my story, and after a couple hours, I was able to convince them it would be okay.

BR: That old house had such a warmth to it. A lot of old houses are spooky, but not this one. There was a uniqueness about that house, and about the way we recorded there. We recorded everything live, with a generator just outside. The house and all of its ambient sounds were a part of the recording — the wind, the rustling wheat, the way the plaster on the walls pushed back against the sounds the musicians made. As a songwriter, it was really interesting for me to have the environment as an element in the songs, and the recording. We didn’t run away from that; we embraced it.

SP: At what point did the recording turn into a film?

AN: We decided early on that we should document our journey, just hang some GoPros and run with it. But the nature of our journey was we never really knew what it was going to be. The project had a way of finding its own way. It had a mind of its own, and it transformed into a full-fledged documentary.

“No Roads In” will screen Friday, July 28 at 7 p.m. at Scruffy City Hall. For more information, see http://www.noroadsin.com and http://www.blakereidband.com.

Now Playing: “When to Die,” screening at Scruffy City Film and Music Festival

Fellow film lovers and best friends since childhood, John Pacelli and Justin Miller realized their life-long dream of making a movie together after Miller happened upon a community of quirky history hobbyists in their native Illinois.

“Justin was asked to join this group of Civil War reenactors,” Pacelli says. “He didn’t really know what to think, but he went out and bought all this gear, started going to these events. Then he was coming back and telling me about how amazing some of these characters were, how fascinating that culture is.

“In the meantime, it was a particularly interesting time for the community, because it was the 150th anniversary of the war. Justin and I had always joked about making a film together, so we said, hey, let’s do this. It turned into a five-year project, and it only got bigger as we went along.”

As the two men accumulated footage, they narrowed their focus to four participants — two Union enthusiasts and two Confederates — and followed them across a handful of reenactments, including major events at Gettysburg and Appomattox. They also learned a good deal about the weird nerdist obsessions of reenactors — mostly centered around issues of historical authenticity — and about the even weirder intra-cultural divisions those obsessions create.

“You have what they call mainstreamers, who are very serious, and try to be authentic,” Pacelli says. “But they’re not as serious as the campaigners, who take authenticity to the extreme. They won’t eat anything but hardtack; they won’t use the porta-johns; they like to camp miles from the event and march their way in. And then you have the Farbies, guys who don’t care. You’ll see them at the events with coolers, their uniforms hanging out, drinking soda out of a can.

“It was kind of a Catch-22 when we were dealing with the campaigners. They like to talk about what they do, but they don’t like to talk about it with cameras around because it’s not authentic. That was a challenge.”

Pacelli notes that he and Miller made a decision early on to keep their own editorial voices out of the doc, choosing to focus instead on character, on the passion and pathos of their eccentric principles. “You’re not going to convince a hardcore southerner that the war wasn’t about family honor and states rights,” he says. “One guy flat out told me, you’re never going to convince me that I’m wrong and you’re right.

“That’s when I knew we just needed to let these people tell their stories in their own voices. It became in many ways a family-driven documentary. We had an African-American reenactor from Chicago, who had ancestors who were slaves. And we had a reenactor from North Carolina whose grandfather fought for the Confederacy. It just seemed way more important that we hear their voices than that we insert our own voices into the narrative.

“We’re not Civil War scholars, and this is not a Ken Burns project. What we wanted to do was ask, who are these people that do this, and then explore the legacy of the war through what they’re doing now. We let those voices speak, and then let the audience sort it out for themselves.”

The festival premiere of “When to Die” will be Saturday, July 29 at 3 p.m. at Scruffy City Hall.

Now Playing: “Paper Lanterns” at Scruffy Film and Music Festival

Real-life miracle men are hard to come by, but director Barry Frechette found one such man in the person of Shigeaki Mori, the focus of Frechette’s 2016 documentary “Paper Lanterns.” Mori’s miracle, however, is no mere supernatural feat, but rather an act of sublime compassion. Having witnessed the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima by U.S. pilots in 1945 at the end of World War II, Mori not only lived to tell about it, but made it his life’s mission to reach out to families of 12 U.S. POWs held in a camp near the city when “Little Boy” fell from the sky.

Frechette’s film relates the tale of Mori’s quest in his own plaintive voice, filtered through the prism of survivors like the family of POW Normand Brissette, whose legacy had lived on in Frechette family legend.

Scruffington Post: How did you find the story that became “Paper Lanterns?”

Barry Frechette: My great-uncle Eddy was a friend of one of those POWs, a guy named Normand Brissette. So the story of my uncle’s friend who died in the war made its way through my family and found me at just the right time. I’d known about the story growing up, and then I came across an old scrapbook with some old photos and clippings, around four or five years ago. I got my hooks in it and I couldn’t let go.

SP: How did Mr. Mori become involved?

BF: In that scrapbook, there was an article that mentioned him, about how he had contacted one of the other POWs’ sister, sent her a letter from Japan. So I sent a message to him through the “Stars and Stripes” newspaper. And then I actually went over to Japan to meet him.

SP: How did you approach narrative in the film?

BF: What we set out to do was to tell the story through Mr. Mori’s eyes. We let him explain what happened, and through that you understand why he does what he does. And at some points in the film, we look at the journey through the perspective of some of the POWs’ surviving family members.

SP: What was Mori’s motivation for reaching out to those families?

BF: Mr. Mori was eight years old when the bomb dropped, and his family had just moved outside the city, otherwise he would have been killed. He survived the night, saw the aftermath. He looked at it from the point of view that those POWs were victims, too. He’s an amazing man, a man who spent 35 years of his life giving a voice to those 12 men. He’s a true peacemaker.

SP: Given that the bombing of Japan is still a sensitive, even polarizing topic 70 years after the fact, how has “Paper Lanterns” been received?

BF: It’s taken on a life of its own, in ways we could never have imagined. We’ve been lucky enough to screen the film at several festivals. Then we were invited to show it at the U.S. Embassy in Japan. When Pres. Obama went to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park last year, Mr. Mori was invited and had a front row seat. When he went up there and shared a hug with President, that was a special moment for everyone.

“Paper Lanterns” will screen Sunday, July 30 at 7 p.m. at Scruffy City Hall.

Now Playing: The Punknecks

Jason Alan Price was an itinerant guitar-slinger with a country song in his heart and the Devil’s music in his soul when he met pretty Polly on the streets of Los Angeles round about 2004. A Wichita girl with Hollywood stars in her eyes, Polly knew she wasn’t in Kansas anymore when Jason, covered in tattoos and pierced in places most sane folk would rather not think about, pulled out his battered old six-string and burst into song.

But Polly was made of sterner stuff than most midwestern good-girl naifs; she gave as good as she got, drawing on a deep well of childhood church singings and bluegrass fests, matching Jason’s wild-child mixture of gutbucket country and pugnacious punk rock note for plangent note.

“When he pulled out that guitar, we started doing show and tell right there on the sidewalk,” says Polly, aka Polly Punkneck, aka one half of roving cowpunk outfit of the same surname.

For his part, Jason was already sold on the pretty girl with the big voice and the spunk to stand toe-to-toe with a painted stranger, her being barely off the bus in the streets of big-city L.A. He asked her to join his then six-piece outfit the Punknecks, and the rest is rock ‘n’ roll history, or so they say.

It still took another minute for the Punknecks to find their footing, though. Strange as it seems now, Polly was only a backup singer in that early incarnation of the band, and frontman Jason didn’t even play his guitar on stage. But when Jason suggested the band take to the road sometime in mid-2005, Polly was the lone member to call his bluff. “I was the only one who said, ‘Let’s do this,'” she says with a chuckle. “With only two of us left, we had to make some adjustments.”

Twelve years, more than 12 band members and at least 10 road cars later, the Punknecks are perhaps the hardest-touring outfit in rock ‘n’ roll, logging up to 250 club dates every year. And if Polly’s siren singing is the band’s best asset, then Jason’s roughneck authenticity is the juice that makes the Punknecks’ motor run hot.

“Jason understands the classic Nashville country scene so well, but he also has the rebelliousness of punk and metal,” Polly says. “That’s what makes the band. He’s a natural born entertainer. He can walk into a room full of strangers and have every one of them buying him beer and whiskey before he’s done.”

One of the downsides to the band’s hellbent touring sked is that making time for the studio is often a bit of a chore. The ‘necks recorded their first record, “Outlaw Country” in 2006, hauling a motley collection of microphones and old guitars into a San Diego beach house along with 30 bottles of vino and 10 cases of beer, in a mad race to lay down eight country-punk classics on an old analog tape machine by the time the booze ran dry.

“That’s still a lot of people’s favorite album of ours, probably because we just did not give a fuck,” says Jason. “I put a Walmart grocery bag over a pillow and used it as a snare drum, real MacGyver kind of stuff.”

Now, though, after releasing a mere five albums in 13 years, Jason and Polly are preparing to enter the studio for a reckoning, of sorts, a marathon session wherein the ‘necks will reap a rich harvest from years of songwriting reserves. “We’ve got plenty of ammunition, maybe a couple hundred songs,” he says. “We want to put together maybe three or four truly epic albums, get ahead of the game for a change.

“We like to have a little more recording quality now, too, and work with people who know how to listen. That early, crazy stuff we did was great for what it was. But the older I get, the more important the quality of the sound is to me.”

First, though, there’s the necessary business of finishing up the current run for record number five, “Road to Nowhere,” on which the band has been touring for the past three years. “We invested a lot of money and time into that one, so we decided we weren’t going to stop selling it until everyone’s got it,” Jason says. “Now, I think just about everyone’s got it that’s going to.”

The Punknecks will play Preservation Pub Monday, July 17 at 9 p.m.