Cats have already won the battle for the internet’s heart and even made headway in the film world recently with “Kedi” and “Keanu.” And this weekend, they be the stars of the first-ever Cat Film Festival.
Kicking off in New York City on Dec. 9 before going on the road, the festival was created in response to the “countless requests” received by Tracie Hotchner, founder of the Radio Pet Lady Network and curator of the Dog Film Festival, which returns for its third year on Dec. 10.
“I think the Cat Film Festival may put the Dog Film Festival to shame in terms of enthusiasm and turnout because people who love cats live in a kind of secret, private world,” explains Hotchner, with the festival providing a rare chance “to come out and celebrate with other like-minded cat people.”
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And if you think you know cats from viral GIFs and YouTube clips, think again.
“There’s something shaming about [these videos] that has to do with mockery,” Hotchner notes. “You’re capturing your animal in a moment of doing something silly or adorable, but you haven’t set out to make a movie with intention and to tell a story, even if it’s just a couple minutes long.”
The Cat Film Festival is made up of two blocks of short films exploring the personal connection between cats and humans, whether their owners or just ones passing by who care about them. Curated by Hotchner, the films are meant to explore “how cats fit into our lives and how we make that relationship better — or worse.”
In the first block, “Nobody Owns a Cat,” you’ll meet a professional cat groomer, see how a preschool teacher and her cat spend winter break and experience a “visual poem” about the life of a cat in Tuscany.
Feral and community cats who don’t get much exposure are also addressed in a longer overview of how cats came to live alongside humans — and the ones who refuse to be tamed.
Prepare for serious waterworks in the festival’s second portion, “Little Works of Art.” (Don’t worry, even the sad stories have happy endings when Hotchner is involved!)
There’s a filmmaker’s personal story about how her devoted cat consoled her through depression, a documentary about the rich life of a disabled cat, and the title film about the “crazy cat man” who runs the American Museum of the House Cat in North Carolina.
“There are so many surprises,” she says. “There is no easy answer to some of the movies.”
The Cat Film Festival is going on Dec. 9 at the School for Visual Arts Theatre, 333 W. 23rd St. in Chelsea. The festival is made up of two blocks, and tickets are $15 for each session.