They danced, and they barked, and they hitched rides on Roombas. But in the end, no amount of cat cuteness could match the emotional punch of "Henri 2, Paw de Deux," a searing documentary of a tortured feline that last night won the coveted people's choice award at the first Internet Cat Video Festival.
The black-and-white film brilliantly portrays the existential struggles of a black cat known as Henri Le Chat Noir, who spares nothing as he bravely invites the cameras into the dark corners of his soul.
"I am free to go, yet I remain," Henri shares in French voiceover, as the camera zooms in on him staring forlorn out a window. "The 15 hours a day I sleep have no effect. I wake to the same tedium."
An audience of more than 10,000 gathered outdoors at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minn., to watch a curated lineup of several dozen cat videos and applaud as the Golden Kitty was presented to William Braden, creator of "Henry 2, Paw de Deux."
"Henry 2," selected through an online vote, beat thousands of videos submitted from around the world in categories including comedy, drama, foreign, musical, and art house. It played as the evening's finale and will be broadcast during the season finale of Animal Planet's My Cat From Hell on September 8 at 5 p.m. PT.
Henri Le Chat Noir clearly isn't a cat from hell, though he obviously feels he is in hell. "I'm surrounded by morons," he says, staring into the camera.
The feline film fest provided a rare opportunity for fans of the online-cat-video genre to indulge their passion offline, in a communal setting. The event was free, and open to both human and furry cinephiles, with some of the former honoring the occasion by dressing up like the latter.