Wednesday, September 01, 2004

There's more than one way to do it.

The convicted cat skinners/alleged video artists Jesse Power, Anthony Wennekers and Matt Kaczorowski are back in the news thanks to a new documentary called Casuistry: The Art Of Killing A Cat premiering at the TIFF. Some self-righteous character named Rondi Adamson at the Toronto Star is refusing to see the film:
[P]eople tell me I should also see Casuistry: The Art Of Killing A Cat, scheduled as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, before making a judgment.

No, I don't need to. I can make a judgment. I am willing to make a judgment right now and stand by it.

The movie is sick, and I hope no one goes to see it.

Better yet, I hope the people at the film festival will come to their senses and consider pulling it out of their lineup before the festival begins.

The movie, a 90-minute documentary, examines the videotaped skinning alive of a stray cat at the hands of Jesse Power, Anthony Wennekers and Matt Kaczorowski in Toronto in 2001 (for which our justice system delivered some stern slaps on the wrist).
Adamson isn't alone in her froth. A group called Freedom for Animals has asked the TIFF to cancel the screening of Casuistry. Writes FFA's organizers: "If this film is aired as scheduled, we will be organizing protests and a boycott of the Festival. We will also contact many of the celebrities who might be planning to attend the Festival, and urging [sic] them not to come. (As you are probably aware, many prominent celebrities support animal rights, and will share our disgust with this film.)"

Given the huge national outcry over Power et al.'s savagery, it seems to me like the Kensington cat murder is a great topic for a doc. This cat's death, after all, did provoke more outrage than 95% of human murders or, say, the genocide going on in Sudan.

Nowhere in Adamson's article or on FFA's websites is it apparent whether or not the cat skinning footage is show in the documentary. It isn't. One would imagine that -- like screening snuff films -- would be illegal. (Can anyone confirm that for me?)

The film may feature many apologists for the kitty-killers and may be produced by an associate of Powers as FFA claims, but that shouldn't preclude it being shown at the TIFF. If people were allowed to defend them in print and on television before the trial, why shouldn't they be allowed to in a documentary?

The Kensington cat torture case attracted a lot of sympathy for animal rights organizations. Why would they squander that good will by seeking to stifle free speech?

Hey, wouldn't the Cat Skinners be a great name for a band?

UPDATE: I see now that one of the TIFF's producers has now received a death threat. More animal rights activists destroying their credibility. The Globe's Gayle MacDonald reports:
Sean Farnel, who programs TIFF's Real to Reel program, received a call in the morning at his home from a woman who, among other things, threatened to "skin him alive" and "shove knives in his eyes."

The festival has received a steady stream of angry e-mails, faxes and phone calls since the Toronto-based Freedom for Animals posted on their website a letter asking TIFF to pull Montreal director Zev Asher's 91-minute documentary. The film investigates the infamous Toronto animal-cruelty case in which art student Jesse Power and two friends kill a cat, posthumously named Kensington by animal-rights supporters.

Power claimed his intention was to make a video that protested the unthinking consumption of factory-slaughtered animals by killing, cooking and eating a cherished domestic pet. The documentary quotes Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford as saying, "I know a lot about artistic freedom and it matters to me. But, I think that [killing a cat as an art project] is a crock of shit."

Yesterday, TIFF organizers vowed, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, that they would not pull the film from its program.

TIFF co-director Noah Cowan defended the work, saying "the film is a journalistic essay . . . classic investigative filmmaking in the tradition of Errol Morris that identifies the crime, and all the issues that surround it, and tries to come to a larger social understanding of what the debate represents."

Cowan added that he takes exception to the fact that many of the scores of people writing or calling to express outrage at the feature film have not even seen it. "A huge number of radical activists have decided, without seeing the film, the best way for debate to take place around the issue is to have the film banned.

"It's always nice to have civilized debate over films that people have seen, but it's a whole other matter when it comes to films people haven't seen."

Cowan acknowledged that there is disturbing imagery in the documentary, but no clips from the notorious cat video.
To be continued, I suppose.

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