Over 200,000 stray cats live in Rome, Italy – the descendants of Egyptian cats brought there 3,000 years ago. The cats aren’t wild, but they need human help to survive. Problem is, some Romans consider these strays equal to rodents – and view those who feed or care for them with equal contempt.
Cats of Rome documents six months at Torre Argentina, Rome’s largest cat sanctuary. With its many feline inhabitants – and constant threats from overpopulation, overcrowding, disease, and detractors – life at Torre Argentina is a never-ending struggle for the cats and the people who care for them.
Any romantic notions the viewer may have about Rome and its abundant cat population are quickly dispelled in Cats of Rome, as director Michael W. Hunt promptly hones in on the endless demands put upon Torre Argentina to care for and house the multitude of cats that come through their doors. (Hunt does, however, sprinkle a handful of scenic shots of Rome, its people, and its landmarks throughout the film.)
The caretakers and supporters of Torre Argentina are an interesting cross-section of native Italians, transplanted Americans, and other random expatriates. It’s inspiring to see different nationalities and ethnicities unite for a common cause, yet it’s also hard to watch them struggle against the many obstacles in the way of saving the scores of cats at the sanctuary (the aftermath of an attack by vandals is especially hard to take).
Until Cats of Rome was being shot, Torre Argentina had to survive solely on donations from the local community (Rome has no government-funded cat shelters). But during the shoot, we watch a team of Dutch web designers create romancats.com, where people can make donations or “adopt” a Torre Argentina cat from anywhere in the world.
With Cats of Rome, Hunt has created a film that’s at times endearing and entertaining, at other times frustrating and heartbreaking. But ultimately, he succeeds in doing what a good documentary should: He educates the viewer and raises awareness for the subject – or in this case, the hundreds of four-footed, feline subjects.
Is it suitable for your kids?Cats of Rome’s subject matter is suitable for any age, though seeing some cats who are blind, disabled, or suffering from nasty infections may be hard for younger kids to take. And for those who are a bit squeamish, the film shows a veterinarian performing sterilization surgery on a cat in great detail.
Will your FilmMother want to watch it?If she’s a cat or animal lover, Cats of Rome is essential viewing that focuses on a noble cause – just make sure she can handle seeing some of the less fortunate cats as described in the above paragraph.
Cats of Rome
* Director: Michael W. Hunt
* Screenwriters: Gerald Hunt, Randi Graham, Jenna Dolan, Barbara Palmer, Hope Traficanti
* Stars: A couple hundred cats, Keith Burberry (narrator)
* MPAA Rating: N/A
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