Inside the Colorful and Creative World of Competitive Dog Grooming at SXSW

Well Groomed will have you rooting for the underdogs

For centuries, people have asked, “What is art?” In Well Groomed, art is a 50 pound poodle with hair dyed in cotton candy colors and braided into a mural of characters from Alice in Wonderland.

Welcome to the world of competitive creative dog grooming, which its devotees simply call “creative.” Unlike dog shows where rigorous breed standards dictate hairstyles, creative honors groomers who push their technical skills into the realms of the fantastic. Dogs become chickens, rams, Smurfs, Buzz Lightyear, or the cast of dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. Film viewers see inside the lives of four champions as they balance their families, grooming businesses, and road trips to conferences where they compete for thousands of dollars.

Given the tail-wagging subject manner, it’s impossible not to smile while watching Well Groomed. Of course, these dogs all deserve Best In Show awards for adorableness, but first-time director Rebecca Stern does not just show the animals’ personalities – she brings to life the fur itself. Close-ups of the cumulus-like coats, the soft swish of hairbrushes, and a whimsical score from electronic musician Dan Deacon create an almost ASMR experience.

The competitive aspect of the art form creates suspense, and naturally you’ll find yourself rooting for the underdogs, but let’s be real: You’re mainly here to look at some cute animals, and Well Groomed delivers some of the biggest awwwwws you’ll have in a theater all year.


Well Groomed

Documentary Feature Competition, World Premiere

Monday, March 11, 5pm, Alamo South Lamar B
Thursday, March 14, 2:45pm, Alamo South Lamar B

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SXSW Film 2019, Well Groomed, Rebecca Stern

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