The Cat Rescuers

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production


Faced with an epidemic of abandoned and feral cats in Brooklyn, four dedicated activists hit the streets to rescue them.


With over one million street cats, NYC has a serious problem it’s failed to address. In response, hundreds of activists have taken to the streets to implement techniques that humanely control the population. “The Cat Rescuers” follows four of these street-smart volunteers in Brooklyn, where the problem is epidemic.


“The Cat Rescuers” is a character-driven feature documentary that takes the viewer on a street-level journey into several Brooklyn neighborhoods where the street cat problem is entrenched. Through our protagonists, we begin to see the alleyways, backyards and empty buildings as home to a vast underworld of abandoned and feral felines. As stated in the film by the admissions director at Animal Care & Control (ACC), the city’s underfunded shelter system, if a newborn male and female aren’t neutered, within six years their ensuing litters will grow to a population of 670,000! This explains why street cats outnumber domestic pets in NYC. This film grew out of co-director Steven Lawrence’s discovery that the Bay Ridge house he and his wife moved to in 2013 came with 12 un-neutered feral cats waiting at the back door to be fed. As they contacted animal rescue groups for advice, Steven became aware of the scope of the street cat problem and the general ignorance of TNR as a humane solution. Believing a documentary on NYC’s problem could be of value not only locally but also globally, he reached out to fellow docmaker and cat lover Rob Fruchtman. They decided to join forces and began to research subjects for the film. They intentionally picked people who overturn the stereotype of the isolated and lonely “crazy cat lady.” Sassee, Tara, Claire and Stu are all successful professionals who have held down full-time jobs for years and have close relationships with friends and family. But this is not to say their rescue work doesn’t satisfy deep emotional needs. For Tara whose lover was murdered five years ago by a jealous ex-boyfriend, it’s become a way of healing. For Sassee, who was abandoned by her father as a girl and became a single mom herself, there is identification with the scrappy, resilient street cats; now she just needs to find a man who loves cats as much as she does. So viewers understand what happens to rescue cats, we follow several. One of them, Mitsy, a 12 year-old female badly neglected by her owner, is surrendered to ACC. Scheduled to be euthanized if no one adopts her, she is taken in by a local rescue group, fostered by a yoga instructor in NJ, then miraculously adopted by a woman in Dallas. Bubba, abandoned in Coney Island and rescued by Sassee, is put up for adoption by Tara and finds a home with a jovial owner in Flatbush. Stylistically “The Cat Rescuers” is a verité film that stays close to its subjects, showing them not only doing rescues at 4:30 AM or late at night, but also at their jobs and with friends and partners. Like human rights workers who return again and again to war or natural disaster zones, they’re driven by altruism, but also by the addictive intensity of the work and the reward of saving lives. Although they are all facing burnout, they’re determined to keep going until there’s an institutional solution to the problem.


Rob Fruchtman - Co-Producer/Co-Director/DP/Editor

ROB FRUCHTMAN is an award-winning director, producer and editor of documentaries and television programs. He won the Documentary Director award at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival for his feature film, “Sister Helen,” which aired on HBO. He has won three Emmys for his work with PBS. His film, “Trust Me,” a documentary produced for SHOWTIME, follows Christian, Jewish and Islamic boys at an interfaith camp in North Carolina. Fruchtman directed and produced” Seeing Proof” in 2007, a film about Cambodia’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime and its lingering effect on Cambodia’s society, for George Soros’ Open Society Institute. His documentaries have explored the arts, history, world cultures and social justice issues and have aired in festivals and on television around the world.

Steven Lawrence - Co-Producer/Co-Director/Additional Camera

STEVEN LAWRENCE is an award-winning producer-director whose work has often focused on the arts and human rights. Part of the MTV launch team, he served as its senior producer-director of long form programs, creating groundbreaking documentaries about Artists United Against Apartheid and the Soviet underground rock scene, and introducing viewers to world music & hip-hop. After leaving MTV he started Yerosha and produced three films for director Michael Apted: “The Long Way Home,” about Russian rocker Boris Grebenshikov’s odyssey to the West, and “Married In America” 1 & 2, an ongoing doc about 9 diverse couples wed in 2001. Steven was also producer/director of “Vis à Vis,” the innovative PBS doc series that used digital video links between people in different parts of the world to explore timely issues. Among his other productions are “The Furious Force Of Rhymes,” a global look at hip-hop as protest music, and “Sarabah,” about Senegalese rapper Sister Fa’s campaign to end female genital cutting. Lawrence co-founded Link TV: Television Without Borders and served as its vice president of music & cultural programming from 1999-2010. His work has received an IDA Documentary Achievement award, three Cine Golden Eagles for feature documentary, the Special Jury Award from the Locarno Film Festival and the Golden Butterfly from Movies That Matter.


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