Akamatsu was a tabby from Canada who, at age 2, was hit by a car and became paralyzed — he couldn’t control anything from beyond about mid-spine, including his back two legs and his bladder. He wasn’t supposed to live more than a few days.
But then, it seemed, he started to feel better. His appetite was back, his personality.
Human Ian Christopher Goodman, who co-stars, directs and edits the short documentary about Akamatsu that will play as part of the NY Cat Film Festival, bought him a small customized wheelchair and learned how to manipulate Akamatsu’s bladder with a series of squeezes, emptying it into a toilet-toilet. The cat lived in a world arranged for his happiness for four more years, including two spent battling cancer.
“Akamatsu the Cat” is the kind of feline-centric film that Tracie Hotchner, a nationally-known animal advocate, likes for her curated collection — which is a hot ticket both in New York City, where the fest is in its third season, and in Duluth, where a decent amount of tickets have been sold in advance of a screening of the 2-hour New York Cat Film Festival at 10 a.m. Saturday at Zinema 2.
Matthew Dressel, programming manager at the theater, said he scheduled the cat-themed film festival as a response to the people — and there are a lot — who have been requesting more cat content.
“It’s just something that people like,” he said. “I don’t quite understand it. I’m not specifically a cat person. But I’m happy to put on the festival because I obviously like to meet the needs of the community.”
Hotchner said her picks are films that will move people.
“Move them to tears, to joy, to think twice, to be amazed and astonished,” she said in a phone interview, shortly after returning from a walk with her dogs. “They come out, and they look kind of stunned. They have been transformed. They’ve all laughed and cried together.”
The films range from a short mockumercial in the style of an advertisement for a prescription drug, but about the healing effects of cats, to an animated story about an orphaned cat and its robot friend, to a documentary about cats living in a cemetery in Buenos Aires and the American do-gooders who rescued them, to a woman who is decidedly not a cat.
Not on the program: a cat stuck with its head in a Kleenex box.
Hotchner is self-described as “allergic” to this kind of vid. That’s fodder for a different fest. The Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Festival played Duluth at least twice after drawing thousands of cat fans in costume and a few internet-famous felines to an event at the Minneapolis museum.
It’s not Hotchner’s scene. It doesn’t, in her opinion, further the human-animal bond.
“I don’t think it’s funny,” she said. “I think it’s shaming and it’s degrading. I’m a stick-in-the-mud and a party-pooper, there you go.”
But Hotchner did see something valid in the festivities surrounding the event.
“What I think (people) really like is, they like to come together and have a shared experience — in real time — for passion for animals,” she said, outside of religion and music: “It’s something we don’t have a chance to do in modern culture.”
So she collects footage: a teacher who is home with just her cat during winter break, a documentary about a cat groomer in New York City who makes house calls, a tabby gone existential. Then, in each of the 100 cities where it is expected to play, she turns the fest into a fundraiser for a local animal shelter. In this case, it's Animal Allies.
Hotchner, who wrote the book “The Cat Bible: Everything Your Cat Expects You To Know,” does not identify as a cat person. She also wrote the book “The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You To Know,” has a show on National Public Radio “Dog Talk (And Kitties, Too)," and runs a similar dog-themed festival. She doesn’t identify as a dog person, either.
“It’s irrelevant what I have in my life or where I might lean,” she said. “What matters: I have enormous empathy for people who choose to have those animals in their life.”
Instead, she focuses on the relationship between humans and animals: the best nutrition for them, the best intellectual stimulation.
All of this was born of babies — the human kind. Hotchner wrote the much-read book “Pregnancy and Childbirth,” in the mid-1980s. It covers the before, during and after period of having a baby and was, she said, outside of the patriarchal, old-fashioned guides written by male doctors.
She wanted to do the same thing for cats and dogs, she said.
If you go
What: NY Cat Film Festival
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Zinema 2, 222 E. Superior St.
Tickets: Go to zeitgeistarts.com.