Boy meets girl, boy loses girl and then gets her back. We know the story – the formula can certainly get a little old. This even when the object of affection is a cat, and no doubt, the silliness goes up several notches. But Savi is no ordinary feline, and there’s just something about the way Savi the Cat applies a tail to make the old story new.
Emmy-winner Bryan Tucker and Emmy-nominee Netsanet Tjirongo’s 18 minute short (screening at the Tribeca Film Festival) begins with an introduction to the main character. You’d assume the screen would be filled with the sheer cuteness of the orange calico. Instead, we get a simulated version.
Out of black, we zoom in, and Savi is delivered in animation. Nothing too sophisticated, the purview tells us the everyday story isn’t going to have us awash in anguish or elevated in exalt.
Nonetheless, Savi’s wagging tail and glistening eyes establishes an aura, and our initial impulse implores a meeting with the real thing.
But before long, Ken Nsimbi alters the tone in narration, while the zoom out provides a more complete picture. Ripped furniture, broken dishes and general chaos, Savi seems to be standing guard over a domain that he alone rules, and the voice-over isn’t even necessary to sum up the sentiment. “I had no idea how something so small and cute could upend my marriage and turn my life completely upside down,” Ken laments.
Of course, we must meet the actual boy and girl. Ken begins by remembering how he met Kaila Nsimbi, and while he describes his adoration, what we really learn is the irreverent nature of this devoted husband. Then in turn, we understand from the accepting laughter that Kaila is down with her spouse’s playful lunacy.
A wonderful match for sure, the images of their courtship aren’t really necessary either, but we’ll take them just the same. And the sentiment also applies for the words that reiterate their love. “We were pretty certain, we had something that was for real, and so we decided to get married,” Kaila gushes.
All set up, what could go wrong, and Ken putting himself second boded even better for the couple. A box full of available kittens serendipitously appearing at work, the caring husband puts aside his cat allergies and grabs one for his cat loving wife.
So maybe drunk on love, Ken went fishing for trouble. “I put my hand in the box, and this one guy snaps at me, and I’m like, I like the character of this guy.”
Act II has begun.
A first actual look at Savi the kitten seems to say otherwise, though, and it’s love at first sight for all of us. But soon enough, all hell breaks loose, and the return to animation reminds that photography can’t capture the inner workings of a demon.
The power really comes through as Savi sits alone in the living room and the zoom out again spells trouble. The calm before the storm, the little imp seems to be methodically contemplating chaos and his tail wags like it’s the generating engine for the devious ruminations.
Add in the taunt of frequent sprayings around the house and a crossroad has been reached. Now Sophie’s Choice it is not and the couple doesn’t try to oversell the drama. Neither does the setting. They are comfortably sitting on their living room couch and laying out the details.
Even so, the story does require drama and a divergence lends a helping hand. A husband and wife, they obviously see the problem a bit differently and the back and forth gives some teeth to the situation. Mostly playful, the conundrum still rises to the level of concern and makes the gathering choice all the more real.
A no-win situation, the viewer is put in the couple’s shoes. They have to decide what to do with Savi, and their angst becomes yours.