My regular reader will know of my on-going affection for the animals, and that applies particularly to cats, several of which are watching over me as I type this. We care for them constantly, they care for us sometimes when they feel so inclined, but what are these mysterious creatures really about, and what would they do when left to their own devices? Following in the footsteps of beloved cat documentary Kedi, director Sarah Jayne’s hour-long documentary does exactly what the title suggests; it’s a look at the cat communities that are a feature of Maltese life. Different kinds of places create different breeds of animal; anyone who has ever seen a troop of Venetian cats slither out of a crevice above a canal will know how cats can adapt to different environments, and Cats of Malta is a celebration of diverse living arrangements of stray cats on the island.
In Malta, cats are tolerated and cherished in equal measure; they live on the streets, beg for food in cafes, roam wild in the parks, and create their own colonies. Some residents ignore them, but others form bonds, feeding them, even making or painting sculptures of them. Despite their best efforts, cats can’t always do it all alone, and a few human beings have been enlisted to help their cause; they put out food for the little mites, and help organise cat sanctuaries with growing populations and plenty of characters with real on-screen chemistry. The cats are cool, but the humans are good company too, and I liked the boy who wants to become a pilot so he can open a cat sanctuary; he wins an award for 2023’s most novel career plan.
Most fictional felines don’t quite have the same sense of verisimilitude; we tend to Disney-fy the existence of the cat, to impose human characteristics and try and understand their unique ways in terms of our own human behaviour. In general, cats like to do their own thing and we’re just in the way, but there’s a tacit agreement that life is better with each other than without; one interviewer describes cats as ‘life extenders’ and there’s obvious, positive implications for our mental health. Cats of Malta has more interview footage than the more poetic Kedi, and looks in more practical, educational detail at the issues involved in having a wild cat population, and it’s a welcome diversion for anyone who loves to feel a soft paw on their cheek in the morning.
In an ideal world, it would be nice to see more films written and directed by actual cats, but we’re some way from full representation as yet, and this kind of human/cat hybrid collaboration is welcome; cutesy YouTube videos only go so far, and it’s nice to see cats put in a real world context as they are here, even if some of the stories pull at the heartstrings. But with sunny settings, and a jaw-dropping community of feline characters to follow, Cats of Malta is a transmogrifying experience for viewers and a fitting tribute to the hardy qualities of these remarkable creatures; cat-lovers worldwide will want to make an appointment with these funny, furry feline friends and those who care for them.
Cats of Malta will be available on Digital Download from 25th September
Where can I see Cats of Malta?
Streaming on iTunes and Amazon in the EU
September 21st — Malta + Spanish-speaking Latin American territories
September 25th — UK and Ireland
October 11th — France , Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland