First came the internet, then came cat videos.
From live kitten cams to compilations of cats knocking things off tables, videos of our feline friends rule the web. And at Saturday’s CatVideoFest at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, those videos will hit the big screen.
The festival features a 70-minute cat video reel. Curator Will Braden will attend the event, which is part of a tour of his cat video compilation. He has made a fresh reel of cat videos yearly, ever since getting involved with a cat video festival at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
He flew from his home of Seattle to Minneapolis for the Walker’s 2012 festival, where his short film “Henri 2, Paw de Deux” won the “Golden Kitty” award.
“Then I just sort of dug my claws in,” he said.
He took over as curator for the festival and continued creating cat compilations even after Walker stopped hosting the festival. Since then, he has turned it into a social awareness program — each stop on the tour includes a partnership with a local animal welfare organization; in Cedar Rapids he is partnering with the Cedar Valley Humane Society.
Coming up with the perfect feline film experience isn’t easy. To create each year’s reel, he estimates he watches around 20,000 cat videos, selecting about 100 for the final cut. The finished compilation is a mix of home videos, short films, animation and cat-heavy music videos.
“The challenge is to find not just the videos that go viral. I’ve learned how to say ‘funny’ and ‘cat’ in like 20 different languages so I can find them,” he said. “We have cats from 17 or 18 countries this year. There isn’t anything specifically American about cats and cat videos.”
National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library Family Programs Manager Kaitlin Schlofelt said the event will include cat crafts and face painting as well as a beer garden and food trucks. Cat videos, after all, appeal to all ages. Before the screening, a slideshow will feature photos of local felines submitted to the museum. People should bring blankets or chairs for the outdoor event.
The museum itself will be closed, but will be open earlier in the day for Summer Family Free Day, with bands, activities and free admission to exhibits. There is a CatVideoFest tie-in; one of those exhibits, Pop Art Pets, features portraits of cats and other animals in Andy Warhol’s signature style.
Schlofelt said the museum staff is excited to bring this event to Cedar Rapids, and that they’re not afraid to embrace the inherent silliness of internet memes turned into an evening’s entertainment.
“It’s going to be a purr-fect event,” she said. “I wouldn’t kitten you. Lots of puns have been thrown around. It’s been a furry of them.”
WHERE: National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday (8/19): Gates open at 6:30 p.m., screening begins at 8 p.m.
COST: $10; $5 for students and kids over 5; under 5 free
WHAT: Summer Family Free Day
WHEN: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (8/19): 9:30 a.m. museum opens and community sculpture project begins; 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. performance by Deep Dish Divas; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sweet Lilly Pi and Banjo Joe interactive circus booth; 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. presentation by Linn County Master Gardener Deb Waiser; 2 to 4 p.m. Cedar County Cobras perform.