To be frank with you, I cannot possibly be objective about South Korean documentary film “Dreaming Cats”, which is about many different cats living in abandoned neighborhoods to be demolished sooner or later. As a guy who does not have any pet cat yet but has heaps of cat photographs saved in his smartphone, I could not help but look at those cats in the documentary with curiosity and endearment, and I was certainly quite touched by the decent human efforts for saving and helping them.
Looking around several different abandoned neighborhoods in South Korea, the documentary closely and calmly observes the daily activities of cats living in these neighborhoods. Not knowing at all that their neighborhoods will be soon demolished, these cats keep leading their daily life as usual, and some of them are actually quite friendly to humans as expecting any chance of eating. In case of one chubby cat, this cat surely knows how to appeal to humans, and I must confess that I could not help but smile a bit as watching this cat rolling its body a bit on the ground.
Because it is highly likely that the cats in these abandoned neighborhoods may not survive once their neighborhoods start to be demolished, they really need to be sheltered and relocated as soon as possible, and the documentary gives us a close look on the sincere efforts of a number of cat lovers. In addition to feeding cats from time to time, they also try to catch cats as many as possible via various means including cage traps, and we later see how captured cats are handled at animal shelters and hospitals. As spending lots of time outside without much help, many of captured cats are riddled with injuries and diseases, and that certainly reminds us again of why we need to pay more attention to stray cats as well as other stray animals out there.
One of the notable stray cats in the documentary is a tuxedo cat with lame hind legs, and the documentary focuses a bit on its medical treatment and following recovery. Although its lame hind legs turn out to be a congenital defect, this disabled cat soon begins to get better as time goes by, and we subsequently see it having a fairly comfortable time with several other rescued cats in some nice shelter for them.
We also see several other shelters, and one of those shelter owners gladly talks about her passion and affection toward those rescued cats under her care. Once they are recovered, many of them will be returned to safer places to inhabit outside, but some of them are allowed to live in the shelter for understandable reasons, and the shelter owner does not mind taking care of all of these remaining cats everyday at all.
Meanwhile, the efforts for catching and saving strayed cats are continued as usual. In case of one abandoned neighborhood, there is not much time left, so those animal rescue people try really hard for catching cats, but there are still many cats left – and many of them are much smarter than expected. For instance, these smart cats find how to eat the baits without getting caught in the cage traps for them, and the animal rescue people cannot help but impressed despite their increasing frustration.
In the end, many of abandoned neighborhoods shown in the documentary are demolished step by step, and it is rather devastating to see these neighborhoods turned into barren flat areas for new buildings to be built someday. We see a few stray cats still living around these demolished areas, but many stray cats probably did not survive during those demolition processes, and you will be reminded of how inconsiderable we often are to many other species on the Earth as mostly occupied with our inconvenience. As mentioned at the end of the documentary, there are around 3,000 areas to be demolished in South Korea, but animal rescue operations are done in only around 1% of them.
This is indeed a gloomy fact to say the least, so it is a bit comforting to see that there are many people who really care about helping and saving stray cats. In case of one young couple, they became interested in stray cats shorty after beginning to raise their little pet cat, and we see them cheerfully going around here and there in their neighborhood for giving some food to those stray cats in their neighborhood. Although it was not so easy for them at the beginning, they subsequently got the approvals from many of their neighborhood, and they even installed a number of little cozy spots for stray cats to rest and eat.
Overall, “Dreaming Cats”, which is directed by Ji Won and Kang Min-hyun, did an admirable job of presenting its feline subjects with considerable care and affection, and it deserves to be compared to other recent notable feline documentaries such as “Kedi” (2017), a very adorable piece of work about various stray cats living in Istanbul, Turkey. Although it is understandably not as joyful as “Kedi”, “Dreaming Cats” will still make you feel amused and tickled by its many different stray cats who have each own adorable quality to be savored, and I certainly recommend it to you especially if you watch cute cat video clips on YouTube as frequently as I have these days. Yes, I sometimes think cats can be pretty haughty and ungrateful, but my cranky heart is always melted by their genuine cuteness, and the documentary reminds me again that I should keep being nice to those stray cats in my old college campus.