The third annual Internet Cat Video Festival could not have come at a better time: In a week that’s seen a brutal, racially charged stand-off in Ferguson, the untimely death of one of America’s most beloved comedians and actors and the undeterred spread of the Ebola virus, the world could probably use a little levity.
The festival, which is basically a public screening of curated YouTube videos, went down at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis on Thursday night and drew, per the center’s publicist, an estimated 9,000 people. This year the videos were curated by Will Braden, a graduate of the Seattle Film Institute and the guy behind the “Henri, Le Chat Noir” series, which are maybe the closest cat videos come to bona fide art. (Roger Ebert called the second installment “the best Internet cat video ever made.” High praise!)
The festival, for all its admitted silliness, does spring from an intriguing conceptual premise: Essentially, organizers wondered, can a phenomenon that is so manifestly “of the Internet” translate into “real life”? And can a genre that is consumed almost entirely by individuals, on their personal, intimate screens, be appreciated in a mass setting?
Given the success of the festival over its three-year run — it’s now so popular that it tours outside Minneapolis and has spawned copycats (heh) all over the country — the answers to both questions are, apparently, yes.
Per Braden, this year’s curator, his picks ranged from “really nicely produced documentaries” to “surreal music videos” to “something that just happened when someone pointed a camera at a cat.” You can view some of the selections below — they make a good, cuddly antidote to an otherwise unpleasant week.
Incidentally, the Festival coincides with the launch of another cat-related arts event in Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, a major nonprofit publisher, recently launched a Kickstarter for a book examining the Internet’s cat video fetish. The book, if the Kickstarter campaign reaches its $25,000 goal, will be titled “Cat is Art Spelled Wrong,” and examine themes like what makes something art, whether art is good or bad, and how taste develops. In other words, cat videos can actually be … pretty serious.
And, okay, let’s not front here: They’re pretty adorable, too.