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NY Cat Film Festival to bring feline follies to Cambridge

A still from "Empress," a short by director Allison Cayo that will be shown at the fourth annual NY Cat Film Festival at Kendall Square Cinema on Oct. 27.Handout

Cat lovers can be a special breed — patient, willing to work for a little attention, often doting, sometimes a little obsessive, and always up for a little feline adventure. The fourth annual NY Cat Film Festival capitalizes on that abiding interest with a series of short films that celebrate the fascination with our enigmatic feline companions, and this year’s festival returns to Cambridge’s Kendall Square Cinema Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. A portion of all tickets for the roughly 90-minute showing will benefit the local rescue shelter Cat Connection.

Sponsored by Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Products and presented by pet wellness advocate/author and radio host Tracie Hotchner (Radio Pet Lady Network), this year’s program features 22 short films, from mini documentaries to narrative shorts and animations, created by filmmakers from all over the world. And Hotchner is quick to point out that the festival is no cornucopia of fuzzy kittens tumbling all over one another or cats with their heads stuck in tissue boxes. “These are the opposite of cat videos that mock and laugh at cats,” she says. “Some of them are very funny, but they’re usually about cats making fun of people. I like to show the depth and breadth of who a cat is and feels and what he wants. These are films made with intention … to express appreciation and respect for cats.”


Some of the films are made via phone cameras, others the product of accomplished filmmakers. But overall, there is a kind of homespun quality that is personal yet creative. The curated slate of offerings ranges from silly to heartfelt and includes day-in-the-life chronicles, like “Zach the Cat,” to the animation of an Olde English 19th-century tale, “The King O’ the Cats,” to the clever, charming voice-over noir parody about a hard-boiled cat and a woman with love troubles called “Feline Noir.” (Don’t miss the drolly narrated “The Cat Flap,” which chronicles the drama around a cat flap as caught by a wildlife camera.)

Not surprisingly, some of the films reflect the experiences of life in lockdown, such as “Quarantine Diary,” the musings of a cranky, pampered house cat enduring too much attention by his “never leaves the house” human. “In previous years, we had many academic documentaries,” says Hotchner, who chose from among 72 submissions this time around (up from 50 or so in other years). “This year reflected that people were sequestered with their cats and it inspired them to turn their cameras and iPhones on their cats to tell the cats’ stories or the story of COVID through their cats’ eyes. They really recognized the self-hood of those cats.”


Hotchner’s goal with the festival is not just to entertain but to educate and inspire, and the film is scheduled to tour more than 100 cities. “I want to raise the status of cats in our society and reinforce the importance of cats in our lives, whether they live on a street or in a home,” she says. “They are not decorative items on the back of a couch, but soulful, complex creatures … very dignified and serious with deep internal lives.”

But don’t despair, dog lovers — your time will come, too. Hotchner will present the New York Dog Film Festival Nov. 10 at Kendall Square Cinema.


Fourth annual New York Cat Film Festival, Oct. 27, 7 p.m., Kendall Square Cinema, Cambridge, $15