WATERVILLE — Director Debra Granik said it was a chance encounter that led to the documentary “Stray Dog,” one of the highlights of Thursday’s seventh day of the Maine International Film Festival.

The Academy Award nominee was scouting for her critically acclaimed film “Winter’s Bone” when she met Vietnam veteran Ron “Stray Dog” Hall, who ended up with a small part in that film.

The documentary about Hall that grew from that meeting premiered to rave reviews and and won the Best Documentary Feature award at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival.

The story follows Hall, who has post traumatic stress disorder, as he rides his Harley Davidson motorcycle from southern Missouri to the Vietnam Memorial, along with thousands of others for a series of veteran rituals.

The documentary doubles as a love story, as the closed-off Hall embraces his new Mexican wife, Alicia and her twin sons.

After working with Hall on “Winter’s Bone,” Granik wanted to further explore the complexities of the Vietnam veteran, who traveled with several dogs, falling in love.

“Ron had just been to Mexico and was describing his developing attachment to a woman he met there. We wondered where this would lead,” Granik wrote in a news release. “Could ‘Stray Dog’ come out of his solitary existence with his dog companions and venture into the volatile terrain of mutual expectations and domestication? Did his narrative have room for a love story?”

While Granik was reasearching and casting “Winter’s Bone” in the Biker Church of Branson, Mo., she sat next to Hall and he agreed to play a small role in the film.

“Stray Dog brought his life experiences to the role, and he brought some of his friends and neighbors to help populate one of the scenes with locals,” Granik said in the release. It was through this chance encounter that her next project, “Stray Dog” was able to blossom.

“When (Winter’s Bone) shooting wrapped, we reconnected with Stray Dog to enlist his help in obtaining some audio recording for the sound designer,” Granik said. “We found him at home in a little RV surrounded by three small dogs. As we talked that night, we got a glimpse of his broad web of family, friends and affiliations. His vivid descriptions and his questions piqued our interest, and we decided to come back and record some conversations with him and moments of his daily life.”

The documentary aims to explore at how a veteran nearly 40 years removed from combat deals with daily struggles of PTSD.

“We know that it’s one of the costs of war, and we know this mainly because people like Ron have taken the risk to tell us about it,” Granik said.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @jessescardina

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