Who Let The Dogs Out


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Who Let The Dogs Out
"Where this film becomes interesting is where it goes beyond geekery and emerges as a defence of evolving art."

According to Ben Sisto, it's one of the big questions in life. What does it all mean? Is there a God? And who let the dogs out?

It's a more complicated question than you might expect.

Full disclosure: I'm not the best at keeping up with new music and somehow managed to miss this song completely until it was used in Men In Black II four years after it had been a worldwide mega-hit. That film appearance is, of course, an indication of how deeply it saturated media; there were many others and it was also widely played at US sporting events. The important thing is, this is one of those documentaries made with sufficient conviction that it's a satisfying watch even if you don't feel much initial connection to the subject matter.

Much of it is based on Sisto's stage show about the song, and this is both its strength and its weakness. He claims that his quest began with a desire to complete a Wikipedia citation - who was the mysterious hairdresser said to be the earliest known source of the song? Seeking to answer this question takes him to London to explore a story told long before the Baha Men's 1998 hit - but each discovery he makes precipitates more questions and soon he's not looking at a linear timeline but at a complex web.

What makes one song the same as another? Where does one draw the line between different pieces of music, for copyright purposes or issues of personal pride? The notion of people stealing ideas from each other is complicated by the acknowledged fact that it's quite possible to hear something in passing and pick up on it subconsciously. Where this film becomes interesting is where it goes beyond geekery and emerges as a defence of evolving art, a celebration of the way that creative people have always drawn on existing work, subconsciously or otherwise, and used it to create new things. What has our modern, legalistic obsession with trying to carve art into distinct products done to the creative process?

Although there are slow moments around Sisto's show and his obsession sometimes leads him to attach more significance to material than it really deserves, overall this is an intriguing film with more going on than its simple outline suggests. It's supported by contributions from an impressive collection of major players. As with the first two big questions above, there might not be an easy answer, but there will certainly be information here that you didn't expect - unless, decades ago, you let the dogs out yourself.

Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2019
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The story behind the song Who Let The Dogs Out, which became a hit for the Bahamian group Baha Men in 1998.

Director: Brent Hodge

Writer: Brent Hodge, John Diemer, Jasleen Kau

Year: 2019

Runtime: 70 minutes

Country: Canada


SXSW 2019

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