Director Yun Ki-hyoung and writer Lee Yong-han created the documentary Dancing Cat to show the lives of the stray cats in South Korea.
Lee said he got interested in cats after observing a family of strays a few years ago. He started photographing the animals and writing about them in his blog. Somehow in the mysterious way the Internet works, Lee’s blog made him famous and got him a book deal. The book, Hello and Thank You Stray Cats, has sold more than 35,000 copies since it was published in 2009.
Shortly after it was released, Yun, who works as a TV commercial director, saw the book and picked up a copy.
Like many Koreans, Yun was not a fan of felines. But after he read Hello and Thank You Stray Cats, he changed his mind completely and decided to talk to Lee about making the book into a movie.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The project was conceived as a 20-minute short, but it expanded into a feature-length film that alternates between Yun’s cinematography and Lee’s writing, interspersed with animation and music.
The pair got to know the cats and watched them playing, giving birth, eating chicken bones, and — sadly — dying lonely deaths when they lose the struggle to survive on the mean streets.
The knowledge and compassion Lee and Yun gained as they filmed Dancing Cat has led them to become advocates for feral felines. They are working to improve the nation’s trap-neuter-return programs, many of which don’t abide by rules that are in place to protect the cats.
“Sometimes trapped cats are poisoned or they are released to nowhere,” Lee says. “We have to firmly stand against such illegal TNR projects.”
Hello and Thank You Stray Cats has been published in China and Taiwan, and it will soon be published in Japan. Dancing Cat will open next week at 20 theaters in South Korea. An official at Indie Story, the film’s production company, said the film is likely to be screened outside the country soon, too.
“If even one person had a different point of view about stray cats [after seeing the film], I’d be happy with that,” Lee says.