New York City’s cat and dog film festivals return after pandemic hiatus


Two annual film celebrations invariably attract avid ticket buyers, even if they lack car chases, explosions, alien invasions, or Daniel Craig in sulky James Bond.

What they have: mustaches, savagery and quite a bit of wit.

These are the NY Cat Film Festival and the NY Dog Film Festival, which are returning to Manhattan after a hiatus caused by a pandemic. The festival of cats, screened Saturday at noon – Global Cat Day – at the Village East theater by Angelika, includes 21 short works with a total duration of approximately 90 minutes. The nearly two-hour dog festival, which arrives at the same cinema on October 24, features 20 short films. (Animal lovers outside of New York City can also see the festivals: they will be touring for several months, both nationwide and in Canada.)

“I think this might be the year of the highest quality for both of you,” said Tracie Hotchner, author and radio host from Vermont who founded the 2015 Dog Festival and the Cats Edition. two years later. In a phone interview, she explained that at the start of the lockdown in 2020, “people couldn’t find toilet paper, but they were making great movies.”

Not surprisingly, the pandemic is present at both festivals. In “Will You Be My Quarantine?” A feline comedy, actress and director Susku Ekim Kaya shows off herself and her pet, Lady Leia, on a split screen, engaged in quintessentially obsessive lockdown activities like the grooming, watching TV, scrolling cell phone and FaceTime calling. They lead harmonious parallel lives, while the feline protagonists of Jasmin Scuteri-Young’s “Quarantine Diary” and Asali Echols’ “House Cats” complain about the constant presence of their owners in voiceovers provided by humans.

The subjects of the dog party, on the other hand, never seem to aspire to social distancing. “You don’t believe in personal space,” Kyle Scoble says fondly to Darla, his Labrador retriever-pointer mix, in “The Second Time I Got to Know My Dog,” a documentary that pays homage to how Darla l ‘had. until 2020.

But cats may have a reason for their seemingly aloof demeanor. “If it is an indoor cat, it is in a state of perpetual lockdown,” Kim Best, a manager from Durham, North Carolina, said in a phone conversation.

This sighting fuels Best’s “The Great Escape,” in which a cat named Monkey makes concerted attempts to get out of the house, even while consulting digital assistant Alexa, which he beats and meows. In Best’s other entry to the festival, “Cat Capitalization,” his pet, Nube, takes to the internet to market his artistry, pretending – in thought bubbles – to thank mentors like artists Mark Rothko and Vincent Van Gogh. (Nube is a bit missing from one ear.)

Best said she was aiming “a satire not only of capitalism but also of academia”.

Such humor is truly a theme of the cat festival, in which films like Nevada Caldwell’s “Feline Noir” and Priscilla Dean’s “Catfight at the O’Kay Corral” parody old Hollywood clichés.

But while the list of dog movies is not without laughs – David Coole’s animated “Go Fetch” is a sharp two-minute revenge comedy – it contains many more in-depth examinations of the human-animal bond that previously characterized the two festivals.

“Affection in the Streets”, for example, a Brazilian documentary by Thiago Köche, captures the lives of the homeless in Pôrto Alegre, who often take better care of their dogs than themselves. Loyal pets are also a concern of passers-by, who often ignore the suffering of pet owners.

“People who love dogs just look past humans,” Hotchner said. “I’d love to see more movies about it, because I think it’s the thing we don’t want to watch.”

“The Comfort Dogs” also shows the power of owning a pet. Directed by Matthew Salleh and Rose Tucker, an Australian couple who live and work together in Brooklyn, the film is an excerpt from their feature documentary “We Don’t Deserve Dogs”. The segment focuses on the Comfort Dog Project, which provides pets to young people who were forced to become child soldiers during Uganda’s civil war.

With the dogs by their side, former soldiers can share “quite distressing” experiences, Salleh said on a joint phone call. “The dogs are almost part of the storytelling method itself.”

Another documentary, “Nicola” by Zach Putnam, illustrates how her subject, a yellow lab from Canine Companions, a service program for people with disabilities, not only transformed the life of the student who received her. She also gave a solid lesson in confidence and sacrifice to the student who trained her with dedication but ultimately had to abandon her in tears.

Both festivals, however, remind viewers that these animals need people as much as people need them. Hotchner, who runs the programs like a labor of love – tickets for each are $ 20 – always contributes a portion of each screening’s sales to a related local charity. The New York Cat Festival will help support Bideawee’s Feral Cat Initiative, while this year all Dog Festival screenings will benefit nonprofits associated with Saving Senior Dogs Week (October 25-31).

“There is a growing awareness,” aside from Covid, “that senior dogs are fun to adopt and the fastest to fall asleep in a shelter,” Hotchner said. In Gary Tellalian’s “Legends of Comedy Share Love for Old Dogs,” you’ll hear this post in a public service announcement from older celebrities themselves: Carol Burnett, Bob Newhart and Lily Tomlin, as well as Carl Reiner, who died in June. latest. to 98.

The plight of dogs that aren’t cuddly puppies also surfaces in documentaries like “Not Broken: Freedom Ride,” by Krista Dillane, Emma Lao and Dylan Abad, on a long journey to transport 53 rescued dogs from Louisiana to a pet adoption salon in Rhode Island. In “Chino,” another excerpt from “We Don’t Deserve Dogs,” his aging subject, a pooch from the streets of Santiago, Chile, survives simply because worried residents provide him with care.

“The street dog culture there is completely different,” Tucker said, adding that the animals are a way “to bring a whole community together” – a goal for these festivals as well.

New York Cat Film Festival

October 16 at Village East by Angelika, Manhattan; catfilmfestival.com.

New York Dog Film Festival

October 24 at Village East by Angelika, Manhattan; dogfilmfestival.com.

About Bernice D. Brewer

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