Land of the Strays

By Adrian Cicerone | Documentary
A woman gives 1,000 stray dogs a second chance at her sanctuary in Costa Rica.

Lya Battle lives in the mountains of Costa Rica, where she has built a sanctuary for over 1,000 stray dogs. She offers a second chance to animals often forgotten by society, and hope for those who have yet to be found.

Director Adrian Cicerone’s engaging documentary is a compassionate, inspiring portrait of a heroine with an intense sense of heart and mission, making a difference in her corner of the world.

Lya Battle has always loved dogs, and had a few rescue dogs of her own when she took in a special-needs stray named Diego. She cared for him, determined to give him a home until the end of his days.

Diego eventually recovered, but Lya’s sense of mission was born, and she determined to give other strays a home and hope. Costa Rica has many stray dogs on the streets in need of care, and Lya wants to help as many of them as possible, with a focus on elderly and special needs dogs.

Eventually she and her husband’s small home was overrun with animals, until she inherited a 146-acre farm that she named Territorio de Zaguates, which she turned into a no-kill sanctuary. Now she can take in hundreds of dogs, and has had as many as 900 dogs at the shelter.

Cicerone’s short doc mixes footage, interviews and other media to capture what life at the Territorio is like, watching Lya in action with her herd of dogs. It’s hard not to be touched by someone who emanates such a strong love for her fellow creatures, and Cicerone does an excellent job capturing Lya and her work without falling into maudlin sentimentality. The images and photography are thoughtful and beautifully crafted, and the film is superbly edited, telling the story with complexity and heart.

“Land of the Strays” is well-crafted and constructed, and a compelling watch. In an often troubled world, it offers a glimpse into what one person is doing to make a difference — and inspiration on how to find a sense of mission to guide and give meaning to life.




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