Gabriel Ponniah, Editor In Chief
Austin Alternative Screen Scene
More often than not, conservation is a thankless job.
If you’ve ever had to administer medicine to a pet, you know that even the most docile companion is prone to struggle. Now, imagine a similar challenge, only the animals are feral, the resources unsuited to the terrain, and the people don’t have the understanding they need to be accommodating. Yes, it’s a thankless job, and more than a little frustrating at times, but it’s a necessary and admirable pursuit all the same. And perhaps no film at AniFab demonstrated the maddening nature of the job more effectively than “CATSTREAM”.
Off the coast of Croatia lies an island called Mljem, where one woman faces a Herculean trial: castrate as many as possible of the stray cats that have overrun the village of Sobra. Aside from the physical challenges typically associated with TNR (trap-neuter-return) in less accessible areas—and Mirna Kirin has the scars to prove it—the task presents a social relations problem, the echoes of which are felt across the world. More than a few fellow AniFab 2021 submissions intersect with TNR, but of all the projects looking into the practice, “CATSTREAM” is arguably the most earnest about the difficulties such efforts present.
This is not necessarily a film for the whole family, as the opening shot telegraphs, but I never found its crass and unpolished quality outstripped the effectiveness of its approach. Kirin might not earn high marks in customer service, but she understands the ultimate good she’s doing in spite of taking flack from all sides—the cats themselves, the residents of Sobra, and even the less forgiving among the film’s viewership. Credit to director Sunčica Ana Veldić for maintaining such an, ahem, raw presentation of a genuine struggle associated with conservation. The resultant project exemplifies presenting both sides of an issue without losing focus or confusing the audience.
Perhaps it’s merely the way in which “CATSREAM” stands in stark contrast to its fellow submissions, or perhaps the film’s merits stand on their own, but whatever the reason, it’s the endearing and authentic take on a familiar issue which sticks with me the most. I like this film, warts and all, and I hope Kirin keeps fighting the good fight, no matter how thankless.