By Marilyn Freund
(October 28, 2022)
Cat Daddies is a deceptive film, and therein lies its emotional punch. On the surface, director Mye Hoang’s documentary debut presents episodes from the lives of nine men whose lives have been changed by their relationships with cats. But underneath, it takes a look at what behavior our culture has traditionally considered to be “manly,” and how those stereotypes might be redefined today.
The men are geographically, economically, and culturally diverse but each has a story to tell about a cat who changed his life. Each story is fascinating in its own way, from a Los Angeles actor/influencer whose four cats gained him hundreds of thousands of additional Instagram followers to a Florida trucker whose cat accompanies him on long hauls and wilderness hikes.
We hear from a Brooklyn ad exec who spends all his free time running a non-profit cat rescue (which he founded) dedicated to spaying/neutering the local feral cat population. A southern California school teacher has a cat whose standing-on-her-hind-legs-with-paws-raised trick has gotten her into countless memes, not to mention People magazine. “Goal Kitty” as Keys has been dubbed by fans, has gone viral on the internet complete with branded merchandise to sell.
And then there’s Flame, the stray kitten who wandered into a South Carolina fire station and won the hearts of the whole crew, who insisted he be allowed to stay.
The most compelling story is that of David Giovanni, a disabled immigrant living on the streets of New York. He credits his cat, Lucky, with giving him a reason to live. As this gentle, sweet-tempered man struggles with homelessness and life-threatening health issues, his first thought is always for Lucky. A local police officer, also a “cat daddy,” gets involved trying to help find him transitional housing that will accept cats.
In this time of Proud Boys and Incels, it’s comforting to see the other side of masculinity – the empathetic, nurturing side. Director Hoang was inspired to make the film after seeing her husband become a “cat daddy” and “grow into a softer, more patient and compassionate person.”
Several of the men in the film are in traditional “manly” roles – firefighter, truck driver, stuntman, police officer – but they make no apologies about their love for their cats. As one of the men says at the end of the film, “Being able to show compassion – that’s what leadership is all about. So to me, it’s redefining what strength looks like and how it’s more diverse and dynamic than we maybe originally thought about it….”
The film is beautifully crafted and edited, moving skillfully between the nine stories in episodes that feel like complete scenes within the framework of the film. It’s no surprise that it has won many awards, including the San Francisco IndieFest, Frozen River Film Festival and the Dallas International Film Festival Audience Awards. Cat Daddies is a lovely, informative, and heartwarming film, even if you aren’t a cat person. Go see it!
Cat Daddies is meow playing in theaters including the Roxie, San Francisco, Elmwood, Berkeley and Rialto Sebastopol. See list of current and upcoming screenings.
Cat Daddies runs 89 minutes, is in English, and is not rated.
Mye Hoang is a Los Angeles based producer and director. She was a producer on the award-winning noir thriller MAN FROM RENO (Best Feature at the LA Film Festival and Spirit Award Nominee 2014) as well as the narrative feature I WILL MAKE YOU MINE by Lynn Chen (SXSW 2020). She has directed numerous narrative short films that have been showcased internationally. Her first narrative feature VIETTE, an Asian American coming-of-age story, debuted in 2012 and toured film festivals around the country. She is also the founder and former Executive Director of the Asian Film Festival of Dallas, and former Artistic Director of the San Diego Asian Film Festival. CAT DADDIES is her first documentary feature, and it has won multiple awards such as the Tallgrass Film Festival’s Excellence in the Art of Film, and Newport Beach Film Festival’s Outstanding Achievement in Documentary.
We all know the stereotype of the crazy cat lady. And many of us have that friend, the one with the Instagram feed dedicated exclusively to cats. Self-described “Crazy Cat People” are a force to be reckoned with — a community that’s here to stay and has only grown stronger in the age of social media. I watched over the course of a few years as my husband transformed into a bona fide cat person after he rescued a stray. However, something else changed inside him — something deeper. He seemed to grow into a softer, more patient and compassionate person. This inspired me to find more men who had undergone a similar transformation, and document their stories as a way to explore the modern male.
As I dug deeper on “Cat Instagram,” I discovered dozens of men who seemed to be living their best life with their feline companions. Their stories ran the gamut — from firefighters in South Carolina who unapologetically dote on their “fire cat,” to an unhoused immigrant on the streets of New York who always puts the needs of his cat above his own. Many of the subjects are the very embodiment of the traditional definition of “manliness” — the aforementioned firemen, a stuntman, a truck driver. All of them unapologetically dote on their beloved pets in a way that I found very touching.
I see CAT DADDIES as both a collective portrait as well as a time capsule, documenting a challenging year in which people desperately needed hope, relief, and healing. It may not convert everyone to love cats, but I hope seeing images of men caring for these little creatures wins over a few skeptics and becomes a catalyst for compassionate change in a time we need it the most.
Marilyn Freund is a former entrepreneur and business owner. Since her early retirement, she has served on the board of a non-profit, created websites, co-written scripts, done voice-overs, and baked many a killer bundt cake. She loves eating, drinking, and watching films, and has been writing for as long as she can remember including her Game of Scones and CatVideoFest 2022 reviews for EDF.
In her current incarnation, Marilyn volunteers at Marin Humane, working in Cat Behavior and as an Adoption Counselor. It’s kitten season, so if you are looking for a new buddy or family member, check out the sweethearts who are available at Marin Humane!