Do cats always land on their feet? NIAS proves this adage true.

Once I heard the ingenious concept of NIAS, I didn’t have to think twice to know I needed to see this. Found Footage is one of my all-time favourite sub-genres, and even when it’s not exactly my cup of tea, I tend to enjoy the ride. It’s the art of capturing ‘real life’ in ‘real time’, and seeing what kind of creative manoeuvres the filmmakers use is always compelling.

Whether designed to terrify like The Blair Witch Project or REC or to illicit morbid giggles like in Man Bites Dog or Deadstream, there is a texture to Found Footage that you simply can’t get from the visual vernacular of regular film.

The hardest part of any FF film is justifying why the characters are holding the camera and how their need to film everything is a higher priority than their safety. More importantly, how did we – the audience – come upon the footage? Well, NIAS has solved all of these dilemmas and goshdarn, it’s smart!

NIAS, the debut feature from Baptiste Rambaud, throws everything I knew in the litter basket and hits us with something inspired, and I think I’ve seen over 50 Found Footage films at this point. The catch: the camera is not a camera – there is no “camera”, but instead the viewpoint of an inanimate object: in this case a cat carrier – almost like it has been anthropomorphised. Whoever is holding the carrier holds the narrative and directs the vision. Picture it like a handbag spy cam, but no one knows it’s there.

The best part about this format? We don’t question it, We don’t need to. It’s a fly-on-the-wall experience, and I don’t doubt many writers and directors will be kicking themselves for not thinking of it first!

What takes place (in loose real time) is a series of unfortunate events, small wins and big losses for our lead, Isabelle Inizan. She plays the well-meaning yet overzealous Cat Sitter, Noémie, and she does so with heart and panache. We immediately want to root for her even when she starts to make increasingly bizarre decisions because, well, she’s a reclusive older lady (with trauma) in a sweater.

After hesitantly adopting out her favourite cat, she becomes hyper-aware of the quality of life given to local cats. Meticulously examining each feline that comes in and out of her care, wary that maybe they aren’t receiving the most TLC possible. In her eyes, all cats are her babies.

Things take a turn for the tense whilst cat-sitting Nias (pronounced N-yass). He looks a lot like her last cat, so – like any rational person would – she steals him. Nias’ owners, The Eluards Aurelien Soucheyre, Sabine Desjardins and their on-screen daughter Louise, Camille Lebrun obviously want him back.

What ensues is a cat and mouse chase like no other, considering there’s a literal cat involved. It’s the Eluards VS Noémie, her friend Clémence (Margot Fleury), Animal Services and Eléonore Bella as Dr Bastet (I had to laugh at this name: the Egyptian Cat god). I won’t say much more because like most Found Footage, it’s about the journey and not the destination. If you like slice-of-life dramedies or simply love cats, I highly recommend this cozy watch.

NIAS has a very inoffensive run time of an hour and two (whole) minutes, so it never overstays its welcome and methodically plots along at a calm yet bouncy pace. I really enjoyed this piece of lo-fi cinema, and I can’t wait to see what Rambaud does next because this has auteur written all over it.
Oh, my mistake, PAWteur kitten all over it!

NIAS screened as a part of UNNAMED FOOTAGE FESTIVAL last weekend in San Francisco

“I can’t wait to see what Rambaud does next because this has auteur kitten all over it!”

4 tombstones out of 5…

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Jared Jekyll

Jared Jekyll

Jared Jekyll (they/them) is a writer and performer with over 20 years experience on the stage and screen who has now turned their interests almost exclusively to Horror (and Musical Theatre).

They like to indulge in the entire spectrum of Horror cinema, with a soft spot for the bizarre, and a guilty obsession with slashers, regardless of quality.

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