Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Cat Agent, First Annual San Francisco Intergalactic Feline Film and Video Festival For Humans, Jay Wertzler, Kent Osborne, Lil BUB, Mike Keegan, Mike Shoun, Owlbert, Roxie Theater
So this is what Lou Reed was singing about. SFIAFFAVFFH1 is but a memory, along with a handful of photos, an All Cat-cess pass badge, and a couple of balls of yarn. The program that started as a “kitty porn” joke on the Roxie Theater calendar morphed into something much grander when founders Mike Keegan and Jay Wertzler decided to see if they could stage a full two-week film festival with all its moving parts—opening, closing, centerpiece, sidebar, awards, red carpet arrivals, celebrities (in this case, celebri-cats), world purr-mieres, etc.—in 12 hours. What the pair came up with was pure catnip, something the cat lover or the movie lover or the cat-worshiping movie lover could really sink her claws into.
Held Caturday, May 10, SFIAFFAVFFH1 began with the red carpet arrival of internet feline superstar Lil BUB—the recipient of the festival’s First Annual Lil BUB Award for Outstanding Achievement in CAT–and her human Mike Bridavsky. In between that and a closing night that included an appearance by the video collective Everything Is Terrible and—in keeping with the “intergalactic” portion of the festival—a screening of the 1978 Disney comedy The Cat from Outer Space was a cata-copia overflowing with the feline cinema of one’s dreams. Cats rule the internet 24/7. On Caturday, they sunk their claws into the big screen.
Jason Willis’ 2012 faux (fur?) documentary short Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?, a hilarious send-up of 1960s era educational videos, a stylish animated Three Blind Mice, multiple episodes Kent Osborne’s cartoon series Cat Agent (along with a Skype Q&A with Osborne), and a section entitled New Directors’ New Films and featuring works submitted by budding cat-eurs were among the highlights in a day full of them.
A special shout out goes to musician Mike Shoun for his evocative new score performed live to Alexander Hammid and Maya Deren’s 1944 ode to their pets, The Private Life of a Cat. Wertzler and Keegan were congenial hosts, supplemented by video segments, the highlight of which was Keegan complaining about his cat allergy, a bit that required him to handle Owlbert—the fluffy winner of the First Annual Colonel Meow In Memoriam Award for Exquisite Grooming and Style—to make the joke work. Suffering congestion for one’s art, that’s a trouper.
Perhaps the most impressive facet of SFIAFFAVFFH1 is that an All Cat-cess pass holder, free to come and go, chose to stay all day. This after spending two weeks at the San Francisco International Film Festival followed by a Midnites for Maniacs double bill of Speed and the 1974 original Gone in 60 Seconds. That’s a lot of movie watching and way too much sitting, but SFIAFFAVFFH1 was too much fun to leave. San Francisco cat film lovers are not the only ones to think so. Wertzler and Keegan have been invited to take a petite version of the festival to Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. (“Our festival’s having a litter!” laughed Keegan in a conversation shortly before SFIAFFAVFFH1.)
So how will Wertzler and Keegan top themselves in 2015? On Caturday, they sought audience suggestions for what the next “first annual” festival should be. It should be obvious, shouldn’t? Hedgehogs, porcupines, and honey badgers—the cute, the chatty, and nature’s bad ass. Or maybe not. Whatever they decide, sign me for a 2015 all ___-cess pass. —Pam Grady