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Reporting Live From A Film Festival Devoted Entirely To Cats

By / 05.14.14
Matt Lieb snuggles with "Owlbert.'

Matt Lieb for FilmDrunk

Matt Lieb snuggles with "Owlbert.'


PUSSY RIOT! Live From ‘The First Annual Intergalactic Feline Film and Video Festival for Humans’ In San Francisco

WARNING: Cat puns abound

San Francisco is home to many grand and esoteric film festivals. This summer alone, our fine city will feature such festivals as the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (SFLGFF), the San Francisco Women of Color Film Festival (SFWOCFF), and of course the San Francisco Queer Women of Color Film Festival (SFQWOCFF). But for local film enthusiasts/Pub Trivia quizmasters Mike Keegan and Jay Wertzler, all of these trite and liberal-arty film festivals were missing two crucial elements: 1) a longer, more complicated acronym and 2) kitty cats. And so they created The First Annual San Francisco Intergalactic Feline Film and Video Festival For Humans (SFIFFAVFFH).

Watch this trailer to catch a glimpse of the magic I experienced on May 10th.

 

The First Annual SFIFFAVFFH is a film festival for the modern attention span. Rather than two full weeks of screenings, awards, Q&As with directors and celebrities, endless press engagements and self-congratulatory after parties, the SFIFFAVFFH squeezed all the pomp and circumstance of a traditional film festival into 12 fur-tastic hours. The festival was purr-fection. A great scratch-ievment. Meowtstanding! PANDAmonium! (wait…) It was the most fun I’ve had watching internet cat videos since… the last time I watched internet cat videos. Except this time I was not naked and coming down from a quick ‘bate sesh. This time I was surrounded by over 200 cat and film lovers from all across the Bay Area.

Lil Bub and Bridevsky at a New Jersey book signing.

Getty Image

Lil Bub and Bridevsky at a New Jersey book signing.


The festival started off with a tribute to internet feline legend (fe-legend) Lil Bub, who received the First Annual Lil Bub Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cat. Lil Bub was there in purr-son to receive the award with her owner Mike Bridavsky. However, since Lil Bub is not used to large crowds and loud roaring audiences, the festival organizers instructed to crowd to be quiet as Lil Bub approached the stage. The spectacle of watching hundreds of cat-thusiats having to scale back their cat-thusiasm as to not upset their kitty overlord was bizarre and hysterical.

Lil Bub with Robert Deniro at Tribeca.

Getty Image

Lil Bub with Robert Deniro at Tribeca.


The festival’s centerpiece featured world purr-mieres from filmmakers and cat owners all over the country, and purr-portedly the galaxy. One short film featured a cat being denied a bite of her owner’s taco, and was aptly titled “Don’t. Eat. Muh. Taco.” But the absolute breakthrough film of the festival was called “If Cats Directed Tuna Commercials” by Ryan Bradford. Check it out:

[Editor's Note: I really want to see what Bob Ray could do with this format.]

Mike and Jay pulled off the festival with puns blazing. From “All Cat-cess” fest badges, to the centerpiece feature “Scratch Tracks: Live Meowsic & Film,” this film festival used every combination of cat, meow, fur, scratch and purr puns linguistically possible in the English language.

“Cat Agent” creator Kent Osborne is no stranger to art of cat puns. When Kent appeared at the festival via Skype for a Q&A with the audience, he pointed out that 90% of Tom Hanks movies can be turned into cat puns. “Furrest Gump, The Purrminal, Cloud Catlas, Extremely Meowd & Incredibly Close – the list goes on and on.” This started a chain reaction within the crowd of everyone yelling out Tom Hanks cat puns. My cries of “Apollo Furr-teen!” and “Scratch Me If You Can!” went mostly unnoticed.

Owlbert-2

Matt Lieb for FilmDrunk


The highlight of the festival for me involved a celebrity cat named Owlbert (who received The First Annual Colonel Meow In Memoriam Award for Exquisite Grooming and Style) and the bizarre Q&A between Owlbert’s owner Pi and the organizers Mike and Jay. Like Lil Bub before him, Owlbert was treated to a suppressed ovation by a crowd eager to smother the fat cat with cheers, hugs and kisses. The awkward interview included exchanges like this:

Mike: What’s a typical day in the life of Owlbert?

Pi: Napping. Um… (longest pause in the world) mostly napping.

Mike-and-Jay

Matt Lieb for FilmDrunk


At one point Mike was goaded by the audience to hold Owlbert, and he did so at a distance similar to Rafiki holding Simba in The Lion King. He then started sniffling and revealed that he was horribly allergic to cats. I caught up with Mike and Jay later and asked Mike how he was feeling.

“Healthwise… I’m not fantastic. Emotions-wise, it’s really good.” Mike pointed out that he had a very special reason for wanting to hold a feline film festival. “As someone with a disability, in that I’m allergic to cats, I can only experience cats through the magic of cinema and I wanted to share that revelation with the world.”

He was scratching his fur-laden beard throughout the interview.

Jay Wertzler had different reasons for creating the festival. “There are so many people who love cats, and so many people who watch cat videos, and we thought ‘Hey! Why can’t we get all those people together in one place?’”

Jay, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz’s film program, is a veteran festival organizer and has been staffed in some of San Francisco’s most purr-stigious festivals, including SF Sketchfest (Scratch-fest! THIS IS SO FUN!!!). “That’s what film festivals are about. Expanding your cinematic horizons. And no one’s been doing that… for felines.”

Jay was happy to create a festival that appeals less to prurient interests, and more to purr-ient interests.

“I’m just glad that we’ve been able to keep this thing mostly PG, and avoided the R-rated stuff most festivals show.”

When asked if he was aware that there was an “Oakland Internet Cat Video Festival” happening on the same day of his festival, he responded “That festival is for pussies.”

Unfortunately, as the festival went on Mike became more and more sickly. And towards the end of the festival, he and Jay decided that there would not be a Second Annual San Francisco Intergalactic Feline Film and Video Festival for Humans. The team is going to take their feline film festival to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and that will likely be the end of the SFIFFAVFFH forever. However, they also revealed that they are gearing up for next year’s festival, The First Annual San Francisco Intertemporal Time Travel Film and Video Festival for People in the Present (SFITTFAVFFPITP). I, for one, can’t wait.

You can find more information about their future film festivals at www.thefirstannual.com. Whatever they do, I’m sure it’ll be supurrrrrrrrb.

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TAGSFIRST-HAND ACCOUNTSINTERGALACTIC FELINE FILM AND VIDEO FESTIVAL FOR HUMANSJAY WERTZLERLIL BUBMATT LIEBOWLBERTREPORTAGERYAN BRADFORD

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