Miracle Theatre provides the ‘purr-fect’ escape with Quarantine Cat Film Festival

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Quarantine Cat Film Festival

Cat videos have gloriously helped us pass the time ever since YouTube was invented.

During a pandemic, they are a welcome escape from the stresses of the coronavirus.

Behold, the Quarantine Cat Film Festival presented by the Miracle Theatre on Barracks Row in D.C. and spearheaded by the Row House Cinema in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“It’s our fight for survival as independent movie theaters,” Row House Cinema owner Brian Mendelssohn told WTOP. “One of the first things we did as a group when we were like, ‘How long [is] this gonna last?’ … was we created this concept called Virtual Cinema, which is we take a movie that was supposed to go on our screen and we put it online.”

Footage for the Quarantine Cat Film Fest was recruited by 100 independent theaters.

“All the movie theaters participating put out the call to social media and email lists saying, ‘We need you to film your cats and send us those videos, make them adorable, make them cute, in fact, you can win money,'” Mendelssohn said. “We actually had cash prizes in categories, so we had Cutest, Funniest, Bravest and Best in Show categories.”

After putting out the call, they received over 1,300 total videos from around the world.

“We had like 150 entries in Pittsburgh alone,” Mendelssohn said. “D.C. probably had like 60 or 70 entries, and of that, probably like 20 made the final cut. We actually had almost every state covered, even Alaska, and we actually had some international entries too from Canada, St. Petersburg, Russia, for some reason … and Sao Paulo, Brazil.”

From there, they were edited down to 480 videos cut together for an 84-minute film.

“It was my task to take those 1,300 videos and make a movie out of it,” Mendelssohn said. “I spent two solid weeks where no one was allowed to talk to me in a locked up room watching cat videos, editing cat videos and making a movie for the first time in my life. … I think it flows pretty well … kind of inspired by Richard Linklater’s ‘Slacker.'”

What types of cats are represented in the final cut?

“There’s a lot of really adorable flat-faced cats … where they have these really pug-like faces,” Mendelssohn said. “Then there are naked cats, hairless cats, something I’ve never seen before. They’re quite talented. They do cool stuff and it takes a little bit of getting used to, to be frank. There’s long-haired fluffy cats, fat cats, tiny little kittens.”

What adorable cat antics might we see them perform?

“You’re going to see a lot of cat and squirrel interaction, you’ll see a lot of cat and dog interaction,” Mendelssohn said. “One of my favorite things [is] what we call ‘Very Active Cats.’ … It’s basically cats who are super lazy in the cutest, most adorable, funniest poses you could possibly imagine. They’re just laying in a way that makes you giggle.”

Tickets are $12, half supporting Miracle Theatre, half supporting indie filmmaking.

“It financially supports the Miracle Theatre in D.C., as well as over 100 independently owned theaters,” Mendelssohn said. “This is raising much needed funds to keep us open, so you are not only supporting a good cause, but you’re getting a good night out.”

More importantly, it reminds us of the good in the world.

“You’re going to smile,” Mendelssohn said. “It’s a fun, lighthearted, good entertainment option to have something to watch. … It’s something we all need right now to entertain ourselves in a way that’s fun and positive to remind us that the world isn’t all COVID.”

Don’t worry, it’s way better than last year’s flop Hollywood musical “Cats” (2019).

“Ironically, at our theater right before the shutdown, we did Catnip Night where we showed ‘Cats’ at midnight,” Mendelssohn said. “It’s funny when you look at it from a certain perspective, but what a terrible movie. This is the exact opposite. We didn’t try to make humans look like cats. We just took the cats and let them act and be themselves.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Brian Mendelssohn (Full Interview)

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