By Anna Sorokina, news correspondent
From cats terrified of bananas to kitties going through existential crises, quirky videos shown at the Internet Cat Video Festival produced as many laughs from the audience as any comedy show would.
The Berklee Performance Center hosted the second annual Internet Cat Video Festival on National Cat Day, Oct. 29. A crowd of 800 people – families, children, couples and volunteers – got together to celebrate the hysterics of the furry creatures.
“Being able to watch cat videos is a form of nirvana,” Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard Law School professor who served as the festival’s emcee, said.
The event dates back to 2012, when the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis first decided to dedicate one of its evening programs to the phenomenon of cat videos. After a positive response from the public, the festival became an annual event that came to Boston in 2014.
“Cats are domesticated, but they are independent,“ Cathy Horn, senior director of concert operations at the Berklee Performance Center, said. “They are not like dogs, where they respond to commands; you can’t really train a cat, so when they are doing something funny it’s even funnier because you know that they do it because they want to. This [festival] is an opportunity for cat owners to share [their love for cats] with other cat-loving people.”
Will Braden, the creator of the “Henri, le Chat Noir” and recipient of the festival’s first Golden Kitty Award – the highest honor for an Internet Cat Video Festival content creator – curated this year’s videos. From six-second Vines to short films, the videos were put together to create a 65-minute movie that featured smart, playful and unpredictable felines.
“I watched a lot of cat videos, probably close to 20,000 or so,” Braden said. “[They have] to be fun and engaging, but I also want to show different kinds of videos: music videos, videos from all kinds of people and different parts of the world.”
Besides getting to watch a collection of the best cat shenanigans, visitors who dressed up could enter a “catstume contest” for a chance to win prizes.
“[This festival] is really fun. Everyone’s laughing and clapping together, so everyone is just feeding off of how funny everyone else thinks it is,” Lily Pytel, Gifford Cat Shelter volunteer, said. “It’s not everyday [when] you get a compilation of videos that, you know, are good. They were chosen because they are the best – where search for a while and you’d be doing it alone.”
While the videos were all light-hearted, the festival also became a way for shelter workers to reach out to Bostonians. Representatives from the Gifford Cat Shelter and Boston’s Forgotten Felines talked about their mission to save lives and encouraged the cat-loving audience to volunteer at the shelter and donate to the cause.
Judging by the overwhelmingly positive response from the audience, the Internet Cat Video Festival is likely to come back to Boston next year, according to Braden.
“We don’t have a shortage of cats or video-recording devices,” he said. “I don’t see this [festival] going away.”
Photo by Scotty Schenck