A purr-fect film for Viet Film Fest 2023! Cat Daddies features a lovable and heartfelt film following the journey of several men and their best furry friends across the United States. We spoke exclusively with director Mye Hoang about her film’s mission to dispel stereotypes about cats, delve deeper into the discussion of toxic masculinity, and how the camera crew were able to capture the film’s furry talents.
The movie delves into the interpretation of the cat dads in relation to contemporary masculine stereotypes. What aspect of modern-day masculinity do you think cats both highlight and criticize?
I think social media and the discussions over toxic masculinity in America have heightened our awareness of modern masculinity and what it looks like in our country. I wanted to criticize the machismo that we were seeing play out during 2020 and the years prior. Being a tough guy has never helped solve any of our problems, and we were seeing that play out in our election, our response to Covid, the #metoo movement, and gun violence. [Subtextually] in the film, I wanted to show that the softer man has value and should be encouraged, because it’s the compassionate men who are going to contribute positively to our society. It takes a special kind of man to love cats and this is my attraction and fascination with them.
There are a lot of preconceived notions of both men and cats. What were some stereotypes you hoped to dispel with this documentary?
I hope it dispels stereotypes for both men and women who love cats. They don’t have to seem “crazy” to be interesting, or at least, that’s how I see it. I find these everyday people to be immensely interesting.
Was there any specific reason to have the film make its premiere in Japan?
Since two of my producers are fluent in Japanese, it was always a big priority to get the film in Japan. The country has such a love and appreciation for cats, it’s really ingrained into their culture in every way. But I was not expecting to receive such a large theatrical release all over the country. It is still a foreign, subtitled documentary after all, and the art house movie attendance there is still recovering after Covid. But I am glad it is being well received, and it might even surpass its success in America.
Much of the film takes place during the early stages of the pandemic. Can you explain some of the difficulties it took to film during those turbulent times and frequent relocations?
We certainly did not plan on filming during a pandemic. We were scheduled to finish filming in April of 2020, but our schedule was derailed and we lost some of the cat dads we had planned because there was no way to travel to them. The mood also changed and some people did not want to participate anymore, understandably. It was hard to imagine how we would finish – our main character David in New York was severely immunocompromised, so it took a lot longer to finish the film. And we were really unsure if David would make it to the end of filming because his health was so fragile.
I have a cat myself and when guests come over, my typically playful pet tends to transform into a more reserved character. How were you able to make each cat feel comfortable enough to show their personality to the camera?
I chose the right cinematographer first and foremost, Rob Bennett. He is really patient and we often waited until the cat was ready for the camera. We also pre-planned a very lean crew and minimal equipment. Rob was often crawling on the ground at the cat’s level. We never tried to pose the cat or make it do anything it didn’t want to. For all these reasons, I also cast carefully and knew we’d need cats that were outgoing (more than even normal).
One of the most touching stories was that of David and Lucky, an unhoused man and his feline companion. How did you come about meeting David and how has his story transformed your documentary?
I already started filming when a woman in New York heard about the project and reached out to me. She had been helping David get off the street for years and suggested that he should be involved because he cares for his cat Lucky more than himself. He was living in the cold streets because he was on the waitlist for the only shelter in the city that allowed pets. He was never going to give up his cat. At first, I was hesitant, but when I met David over the phone, I knew he was the ultimate cat dad and we had to use the film to help him. David is still fighting three years later, by the way. Things were so bad during the pandemic; we really didn’t think he could make it. I honestly think it’s Lucky that keeps him alive. And the film has brought him many friends from all over the world to help in his fight. (Note: Please consider donating to the GoFundMe for David and Lucky)
This is your first documentary feature! What was the process like compared to your first narrative feature Viette (VFF 2013)?
I enjoy the documentary process so much more, that I don’t know why I didn’t explore it in the first place. I think working mostly alone suits me better than working in narrative storytelling. I watch a lot of documentaries, so it makes more sense for me to be working in this lane instead. Both are extremely difficult with their own challenges. But I enjoy the no frills, no nonsense aspect of documentary filmmaking. I love the authenticity of the subjects and getting to know them over the long process of the project has a lasting impression on me.
ABOUT Mye Hoang
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 2015) as well as the narrative feature I WILL MAKE YOU MINE by Lynn Chen (SXSW 2020). She has directed several narrative short films that have screened at film festivals around the world. Her first narrative feature VIETTE, a Vietnamese American coming-of-age story, debuted in 2012 and screened dozens of film festivals, including the Asian American International Film Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Fest. 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. She has a BA in Cinema from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX where she was born and raised. CAT DADDIES is her first documentary feature.
VIET FILM FEST 2023
September 30th to October 15th, 2023
Program Schedule and Tickets: