"The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

— Mahatma Gandhi

It is the right time to end speciesism, the idea that animals are lower on the scale of importance than human beings. It justifies the shooting of wolves as pests that deserve to die. It enables hunters to kill elephants and rhinos in order to steal and sell their tusks. It encourages human beings to torture animals in the name of scientific progress. It results in the terrible exploitation of animals in zoos, marinas, circuses, rodeos, and fighting matches. It justifies the travesty of factory farms and the cruel treatment of animals in breeding mills. And it lies behind the inhumane abandonment of pets all around the world.

"The truly wise person kneels at the feet of all creatures."

— Mechtild of Magdeburg

In his remarkable book The Animal Manifesto, Marc Bekoff spells out six reasons for expanding our compassion for animals:

1. "All animals share the Earth and we must coexist.
2. Animals think and feel.
3. Animals have and deserve compassion.
4. Connection breeds caring, alienation breeds disrespect.
5. Our world is not compassionate to animals.
6. Acting compassionately helps all beings and our world."

"To me, animals have all the traits indicative of soul. For soul is not something we can see or measure. We can only observe its outward manifestations: in tears and laughter, in courage and heroism, in generosity and forgiveness."

— Gary Kowalski in The Souls of Animals

White God is a poignant and thought-provoking Hungarian film which conveys the sick and sad sides of human abuse of dogs as well as the positive dimensions of a caring and compassionate relationship between a teenage girl and her dog companion named Hagen. Lili (Zsofia Psotta) lives with her mother who is going overseas for three months. She does not get along with her divorced authoritarian father Daniel (Sandor Zsoter) who is always hounding her about one thing or another. When he learns that a heavy tax has been levied against mixed dogs, he orders Lili to take Hagen to a shelter until her mother returns.

"If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys."

— Chief Dan George in The Boundless Circle by Michael W. Fox

Everything seems to be going badly for this teenager who plays trumpet in a youth orchestra. When Hagen barks and romps around the rehearsal room instead of waiting patiently and quietly for Lili, she is kicked out of the group. After a fight with her over the dog, Daniel abandons Hagen on the motorway. Lili goes into mourning, puts up notices about her lost dog, and is bereft without his playful, adoring, and affectionate presence in her empty and lonely life.

"Animals are here in part to grant glimpses of the grace of beauty."

— Matthew Fox

Writer and director Kornel Mundruczo shifts gears and we follow Hagen's struggle for survival. The dog's-eye-view camerawork conveys the difficulties he has finding food, roaming the city in a vain attempt to find Lilli, and fleeing from the city's large band of pound officers who have been ordered to pick up all the mutts on the streets. Luckily, Hagen finds a trusty little dog who shows him the ropes and, at one point, saves his life. But eventually, his luck runs out and he is captured and sold by a homeless man, passed on to another and then purchased by a cruel gambler who begins training Hagen to become a fight dog. For animal lovers, this sequence is almost unbearable to watch as this affectionate mutt is drugged, beaten, deprived, and abused in a violent training regime designed to make him into a killer.

"If violence is called an animal trait, it has to be countered that animals don't kill for sport, exterminate populations of other animals out of thoughtless greed, or use violence to feel important or defeat goodness. Those are all human developments, and only after we take responsibility for them do we have a right to blame our animal past."

— Deepak Chopra in Peace Is the Way

There is much more to tell about Lili and Hagen and how they fare in their separate journeys. But we can tell you that the finale will touch your heart and wipe away much of the pain and suffering endured by this adolescent and her beloved animal companion.

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."

— Anatole France in Peace to All Beings by Judy Carman

Going Deeper
Here are three prayers from the book Prayers for Animals by Carol J. Adams to use in conjunction with your viewing of this movie.

"Sometimes we hear on the radio or television, or read on the Internet about an animal who is suffering or in trouble. This prayer is for those times.

"Dear God,
I heard about an animal in trouble.
Yet, God, I am so far away from this animal.
I feel stricken by his suffering and saddened by my own powerlessness.
I cannot save this animal by reaching out my arms in rescue.
But I can do this.
I can pray for this animal's safety.
Please God, keep this animal safe."

"Prayer for animals in shelters
May you know the touch of kindness.
May you know a warm blanket, a special treat.
May you know a walk outside,
May you know another day."

"For a stray dog you saw
Dear God,
Today, I saw a dog running by the road.
No one was near the dog.
I did not stop.
I could not stop. . . .
I confess, God, I did not help.
Forgive me.
But God,
I am worried about this dog.
Is she still safe?
So many cars were rushing by.
I am frightened that the dog might have been hit.
God, I passed by that dog.
Please, God, don't pass by.
Be here with me and
Be with that dog.
Keep us both safe.
And God,
Help me
Next time to stop.
Hear my Prayer, O God,
for all lost and lonely and wounded animals
in the world
including me,
I pray.
Hear my prayer.
Be with all lost and lonely and wounded animals
in the world,
including me,
I pray."

Screened at the 44th New Directors/New Films: Lincoln Center, New York.