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'Cat Daddies' is All About the Ways Cats Bring Humans Together

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A tuxedo cat stares into the face of his owner, a white man, who stares intently back.
Keys (A.K.A. @Goalkitty) and his owner, Peter Mares. ('Cat Daddies')

At the end of Cat Daddies, you can’t help but suspect that this documentary didn’t end up being the one that director Mye Hoang and producer/editor Dave Boyle had originally set out to make.

The movie is billed as “a refreshing and timely exploration of modern masculinity” told through the lens of cat-loving men around America. And the film, which screens Feb. 5 at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival, is bookended by sharp points related to that theme. The 75-minutes or so in the middle, however? Well, that’s just seven men and a station house full of fire fighters hanging out with their kitties. It’s not a bad film. Soothing, if anything. You’re just not going to learn a great deal from it.

In the first and last moments of the film, some of the titular cat daddies discuss keeping their love of cats quiet while they were growing up. They describe receiving or fearing judgment from male friends for wanting to get cats at all. And some of them momentarily ponder old-fashioned notions of masculinity that are rooted in the idea of men as protectors. So, these men wonder, shouldn’t protecting cats count too?

I wish the movie had delved further into that. I wish it had explored how tropes about cat ladies, and traditional notions of felines as inherently feminine, have made it harder for men to embrace their cat-loving selves. Instead, what we get are casual and intimate snapshots of some men who accidentally fell in love with cats and have found the will to embrace it.

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The men featured are: an actor, a truck driver, a software engineer, an advertising professional, a stunt performer, a middle-aged man who’s embraced social media, a homeless man dealing with serious illness, and the aforementioned fire fighters. While their professions and personalities differ, the men featured all have similar dispositions. They are all serene, gentle souls. And maybe that’s a reflection of the therapeutic good that cats can do.

Overall, what Cat Daddies does best is to demonstrate how a love for kitties can bring people together. Peter Mares meets his girlfriend by talking to her about Keys (a.k.a. Goal Kitty), his social media star pet. Ryan Robertson is able to turn his friendship with a fellow stunt performer into a romance because she wants to meet his Maine Coon. Will Zweigart brings together communities in Brooklyn by teaching them how to trap, neuter and release feral colonies. Actor Nathan Kehn co-founded a dating app for cat lovers after some women found his four cats to be too many. David Durst meets up with people on his truck journeys across the country because they want to meet his cat Tora—another social media star.

Most touching of all, though, is the story of David Giovanni, a man living with cancer and cerebral palsy on the streets of New York, who nurses an abandoned kitten back to health. That cat, Lucky, lives up to his name, helping David form bonds with two cat-loving new friends who help David into housing, and take care of Lucky when David is in the hospital.

It probably would have made more sense, then, to call Cat Daddies “Cat Communities.” Because what this movie is really about, at its core, is the bond that forms between humans who share a love of pussycats. Now they have a sweet movie to bond over as well.

‘Cat Daddies’ is playing as part of SF IndieFest at the Roxie on Saturday, Feb. 5, at 2:30pm. Details here.

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