Well, you know that this short is going to be fun when the kitty kat kitsch starts flowing across the screen and the credits are scripted in pink (although that’s a Miami thing, too). Audiences at AFI DOCS will find Kareem Tabsch’s affectionate, funny documentary in the “Shorts Program: Gone Hollywood.” This Kickstarter-funded film is a passing wink at the Jackie and David Siegels amongst us. You’ll remember them as the rags to riches to rags centerfolds of excessively wealthy spoils in “The Queen of Versailles,” where they gleefully spent too lavishly building a huge 90,000-square-foot mansion in Orlando. In the case of “Cherry Pop: The Story of the World’s Fanciest Cat,” well, it’s about a pampered Persian, a show champion that gained fame and fortune for her millionaire handlers, Fort Lauderdale socialites Huey and Vi Vanek. Hooray for Florida, home of (at least) two of the strangest families I’ve ever seen captured on documentary film.
This reality circus story was pieced together (from various worldwide news sources) by Tabsch, a freelance writer, co-founder of O Cinema (Miami’s leading art house cinema), and a curator for the Key West Film Festival, who produced and directed “Cherry Pop” with a fistful of glee and whimsy, assisted by Joey Daoud and Andrew Hevia, two south Florida filmmakers who apparently share a love for pets. Getting into the spirit, it’s time for a shout out to my cats, Frankie and Maux.
Most of the film showcases, quite imaginatively, the media’s ham-hocked reportage of the fiscal tomfoolery surrounding its star. Immediately, it becomes a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” (which actually did cover the critter—Robin Leach was a fan), replete with a British-sounding narrator (thank you, Peter Baker, for getting the joke). There’s wacky editing, just the right touch of tacky music, a smattering of family photos, ephemeral stock footage, Blofeld’s white cat, and even a pseudo-reenactment straight out of E! Entertainment’s “Mysteries and Scandals.” Cover this cinematic catnip sundae with the straight-forward voice-over of Cherry Pop’s owner Huey Vanek, and you’ll be both informed and awestruck.
Not that it’s all lollipops and roses, because the precious angel passed away back in 1995. A big send-off party followed (or course!), and the remains of the feline are forever enshrined in a gold Judith Lieber purse. Yes, it’s a love story for the ages.