Dogs of the Powerful

For centuries, the world’s most powerful personalities have enjoyed presenting themselves together with animals, mostly dogs. The canines are useful in polishing the public images of masters and mistresses, and may be either fearsome or sympathetic as required. Dogs are given as gifts on diplomatic missions, and somehow, they make their powerful owners seem almost human. Throughout history, rulers, kings, politicians, and dictators have presented themselves together with their dogs – often their most intimate and trusted companions. Depending upon which attributes they wanted to see associated with their public images, they chose adorable lapdogs, intimidating mastiffs, or comical little rascals. Beyond logic or argument, these creatures are useful in transmitting psychologically powerful messages. Which are then taken very much to heart by ‘the people.’ In some cases, these four-legged creatures are used to distract the citizenry from a closer look at the political landscape. The most celebrated example is the dog given to JFK by Khrushchev in the midst of the Cold War. Diplomacy really can be that simple. Even when it’s a question of the competition for the conquest of outer space. President Roosevelt even included his dog Fala in his campaign speeches, and took him along on Air Force One. The 1941, the furry fellow accompanied FDR to the Atlantic Charter Conference in Newfoundland. George H. W. Bush’s dog Millie, an English Springer Spaniel, was among the best-known First Dogs. He achieved immortality when First Lady Barbara Bush wrote a book from his unique point of view. With appropriate wit and whimsy, the film sheds light on a quirky sideshow of world history, at the same time revealing much about the character of famed politicians.

Buch / Regie

Heike Nikolaus


2023, ZDF/arte

45 min.