Dogs and cats liv­ing to­gether! Not quite at joint film fest

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - ENTERTAINMENT -

NEW YORK » The cre­ator of a film fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing dogs has taken a sur­pris­ing step: cats.

But Tra­cie Hotch­ner, a pet well­ness ad­vo­cate via books, pod­casts and ra­dio shows, isn’t go­ing ful­lon “Ghost­busters” — “dogs and cats liv­ing to­gether. Mass hys­te­ria!” She’s screen­ing a med­ley of shorts about cats on Satur­day in New York, then will take her fe­line fest on the road, fol­lowed by her 3rd an­nual NY Dog Film Fes­ti­val on Sun­day.

To be clear. This isn’t one of those in­ter­net-cutesy fests like the cat meme-heavy one at the Walker Art Cen­ter in Min­neapo­lis. While some of the se­lec­tions are hu­mor­ous, th­ese are films made by ac­tual film­mak­ers, as op­posed to peo­ple look­ing to go vi­ral with their pets as video props.

The dog fest, Hotch­ner said, grew out of the so­cial me­dia pop­u­lar­ity of pets.

“I’m not a fan of an­i­mal videos,” she ex­plained. “I find that an­i­mal videos on­line tend to have a sham­ing qual­ity. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’m cel­e­brat­ing the re­la­tion­ship with hu­mans, the bond.”

For both cats and dogs, some of the films are scripted, some an­i­mated and some are doc­u­men­taries, like the one by Mary Zour­nazi, “Dogs of Democ­racy.” Her 58-minute film high­lights the life of a street mutt in Athens named Loukanikos, who be­came a four-legged sym­bol of the anti-aus­ter­ity protests in Greece af­ter show­ing up on the front lines and fac­ing down au­thor­i­ties along­side the hu­mans.

Zour­nazi, who teaches so­ci­ol­ogy in New South Wales, Australia, knew noth­ing about the dogs un­til she first ar­rived in Athens in 2014.

“It was a re­ally tense time be­cause of the aus­ter­ity mea­sures,” she said from Australia. “The cri­sis was in full swing. I fell in love with the dogs im­me­di­ately. They led me to think about that re­la­tion­ship with the peo­ple who take care of them.”

Zour­nazi’s project is as long as th­ese films get. Some are as short as a minute. All are in­tended to in­spire, Hotch­ner said from Ben­ning­ton, Ver­mont, where she lives.

“I’m a lit­tle al­ler­gic to cute,” Hotch­ner said. “My uni­verse is all about ed­u­ca­tion.”

There are no awards, but her dog fest has been sell­ing out since 2015, she said. Tick­ets were sell­ing well for all slates head­ing into the week­end at the School of Vis­ual Arts, which has a 530-seat theater.

DIMITRI MESSINIS — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this file photo, a stray dog, called by pro­test­ers Loukanikos (Sausage), barks to a mo­tor­cy­clist po­lice­man as high school stu­dents block the av­enue out­side the Greek Par­lia­ment dur­ing an anti-aus­ter­ity protest in Athens.

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