Film on Cat Torture Draws Protesters in Toronto
TORONTO Protesters urged ticket-holders outside a Toronto cinema this week to boycott a documentary about a vicious animal cruelty case in which three friends filmed the skinning of a live cat as an alleged art project.
Freedom for Animals, a Toronto group, has organized daily protests at the Toronto International Film Festival. Nearly 100 animal lovers went to Tuesday's demonstration when Casuistry: The Art of Killing a Cat made its world premiere.
The 91-minute documentary contains interviews with the three cat killers Jesse Power, Anthony Wennekers, and Matt Kaczorowski as well as animal activists, artists, police, and journalists. It does not show the cat's mutilation and death.
Power enlisted Wennekers and Kaczorowski in May 2001 to make a video that Power, an ex-vegetarian, said was an artistic statement about the suffering of animals used for meat.
They filmed a cat as they tempted it with a mouse, then skinned and decapitated and disemboweled it, and left its body dangling from the ceiling. Power intended to eat the cat but never got the chance. The skinned cat was found in the beer fridge of the house where he lived.
"I never got to eat this cat, but a lot of other people are feasting off it," Power said in Casuistry which means misleadingly subtle reasoning.
The three eventually pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and mischief charges. Animal rights activists were incensed when they received minimal jail time.
Leading up to the film festival, animal rights activists had demanded that Casuistry be pulled from the program.
"This so-called 'documentary' is again shocking people because it is giving a platform to Mr. Power," said Suzanne Lahaie, Freedom for Animals co-founder.
But festival co-director Noah Cowan rejected the calls. "Film festivals exist, in part, to generate intelligent, reasoned discussion, not to stifle it," he said in a statement before the festival began.
Organizers said the two scheduled screenings will go ahead despite a phone threat to a staff member to "skin him alive" and "shove knives in his eyes."
Passersby looked on with curiosity at Tuesday's protest, while that very curiosity convinced some to buy tickets.
Michelle Dent, a psychology student, said she wanted to see the story behind the "antisocial and violent act," even if none of the graphic footage from Power's 17-minute video is shown.
Director Zev Asher chose to show the transcript of the court text of the videotape in sections throughout the film. He said this way would be "more effective in evoking the stark horror that these guys were involved in."
Asher said he didn't believe his documentary glorified the so-called art project, but he made the film because he was fascinated by the international media attention it caused.