A Film Festival That’s The Cat’s Pajamas


The Internet is home to a lot of weird trends. And the center of much of that seems to be cats. (There is even a song about the phenomenon called The Internet is Made of Cats on RatherGood.com — and as they say, “This is FACT and also science.”) There’s cat breading. Cat bearding. And of course, there are famous Internet cats like Lil Bub, Grumpy Cat and Maru. For example, Maru, an overweight Scottish fold with an affinity for boxes, has his own YouTube channel that has drawn in millions of viewers and hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

Now, cats are coming offline and onto the big screen in the Internet Cat Video Festival, which shows from Oct. 18-24 at Honolulu Museum of Art’s Doris Duke Theatre. While Doris Duke film curator Abigail Algar admits that cat videos are something of a departure from the theatre’s usual content — which tends to highlight independent and international works — in some ways, it’s not that far off. Doris Duke also regularly hosts film events that highlight a particular culture —and cat videos have come to inhabit a strange little nook in modern culture.

“I think here is something about the phenomenon of cat videos that we will never fully understand — we will try … but it somehow defies explanation,” says Kristina Fong, Internet Cat Video Festival coordinator at the Minnesota-based Walker Art Center, which founded the event in 2012.

The festival originated when Walker Art Center program assistant Katie Hill had the idea to show a collection of YouTube cat videos at one of its events. They weren’t expecting much. Sure, nothing gets as many hits as a good cat video. But a whole festival dedicated to it?

I think here is something about the phenomenon of cat videos that we will never fully understand — we will try … but it somehow defies explanation

Then a blog post went viral and the inaugural event drew in 10,000 viewers. Since then, Internet Cat Video Festival has toured the U.S. and several other countries. This marks the second year the festival comes to Honolulu.

The Walker Art Center sifts through hordes of submissions and researches trending cat videos (where can we sign up for that job?) to find the best. This year, the festival features a compilation of about 60 short videos in a 75-minute reel. The selected videos will provide a mix of viral cat videos that people may have already seen, as well as the newest cat vids.


“They have a few vintage cat videos in this year — some from the early 1900s,” Algar says. “There is one of a sick kitten being fed by a little kid and then one about Mickey the fire cat (in the 1930s) … Cat videos have been have been around for a long time!

“And then there are loads of cats doing hilarious stuff,” Algar adds, laughing.

Highlights include the latest episode of Henri, le Chat Noir, a cat going through an existential crisis, Skimbles’ latest fail and an animated homage to some of the Internet’s most popular kitties. There’s even a range of genres — like a science fiction short Cats in Space and romantic drama The Time of Love.

But apart from the videos themselves, Doris Duke Theatre has found that what attendees like most about this event is just having the opportunity to take something that is typically a solo, online experience and turn it into a communal activity.

“It is a chance for people to get together and celebrate something with other people,” Algar says. “It is a very different experience kind of chuckling by yourself in front of a computer and then having 10,000 people around you guffawing at the same thing. It’s just an interesting way of connecting people.”

It all kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18 with an opening ceremony featuring Art + Flea vendors and pet-related booths. Also on opening night — come dressed as your favorite cat for a costume contest. Cost is $10 for general admission and $8 for Museum members.

For show times and tickets, visit honolulumuseum.org.