Guest post by Clea Simon
Somerville, MA is not Minneapolis. But this gritty little city, living cheek by jowl with Boston, is not only fun and funky (second only in artists per capita to New York) but also feline friendly. And so, after seeing the success of the Internet Cat Video Festival at the bigger city’s Walker Art Center, Somerville got on board with the honestly named Copy Cat Festival. Despite a winter storm that brought an additional several inches of snow and gale-force winds to town, on Sunday, February 17, the Somerville Arts Council hosted a total of 600 cat lovers at two iterations of a three-hour fest of local and international cat videos, cat photography and poetry, with a few feline surprise guests thrown in.
Maybe it was the call for local participation. According to the Boston Globe, four dozen local videos were submitted to the cat fest board, which included members of the arts council and Somerville Community Access Television (which was renamed for the festival as “Community Access Television of Somerville” or “CATS”). Tickets for the festival, which was originally scheduled for 4-7 p.m. at the Somerville Armory, were quickly sold out, necessitating the scheduling of an earlier, noon-3 p.m. showing.
The show, which was MC’d by Jef Czekaj, author and illustrator of the children’s book Cat Secrets, kicked off with Jef’s book and a presentation by Charles River Alley Cats, a local advocacy group that does TNR. The group’s short film, which talked about trap-neuter-release and included an interview with a city animal control officer, led into the juried video presentation. Approximately a dozen, both live action and animated, had made the cut, to be put together in a reel that lasted a bit over a half hour and was repeated in both festivals. Highlights included “Metronome,” in which a cat bravely overcomes his fear of a ticking metronome to smite it mightily, and “Awesome,” which captures a young child’s response to her pet’s kill. Audience participation named “Metronome” the winner the first time through and “Jazz Hands,” which showed a sleepy Siamese repeatedly waving in the air, the second.
Still photos of many other local kitties, projected on the Armory’s full-size screen, featured kitties in poses both wildly energetic – a few captured cats in mid-air – and relaxed, with a few of the sillier “centerfold” variety thrown in. Next up: “kit lit” (hosted by yours truly). Participants tended toward the poetic, reading limericks (including one notable ode to a flatulent feline) and longer poems, although one heartfelt bit of prose related the rescue and adventures of a Polish kitty named Krowka, who made a special guest appearance, mewing whenever she was named by her rescuer, storyteller Laura Evonne Steinman.
These were followed by an interview with Coco Koh and her “stroller cat” Jacoby, an Abyssinian whose travels on the MBTA in his stroller have made them both local celebrities. And then the international videos – some of which, such as a Halloween offering from Will Braden featuring the eternally disillusioned “chat noir” Henri and another with two argumentative cats playing patty-cake, were familiar to Internet cat-video junkies. Finally, there were prizes for best cat costumes – during the second show, an adorable young kitten and her mom won – and then a little time to browse the wares before the Armory shut down. No word yet on whether the arts council will make this a regular February event, but clearly the feline is there.
Photo source: still from Jazz Hands video
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