(First published on June 1, 2017. Edited.)
Director Markie Hancock and Producer Kathryn Gregorio released Feral Love in 2016.
This documentary is about Dorian Rence, a violist, who at age 21 auditioned with the New York Philharmonic and has joined them symphonically worldwide for 40 years. But this film is titled Feral Love for a reason. Dorian has also always had a great love of animals. When people ask her, why she wastes her love on cats, she says, “You can’t dictate your love.”
Certainly, the film could have just stuck with the details of her amazing career and her strong commitment to cats, but it goes beyond that. It digs a little deeper into her equally intriguing family history and childhood. It’s an honest and well-rounded portrait, and it was done in answer to the director’s curiosity.
In DOC NYC 2016 Women Directors: Meet Markie Hancock — “Feral Love”, when Laura Berger asked Markie Hancock what drew her to the story, she answered,
I take our two pitbulls to a secluded dog run by the railroad tunnels and I would see this woman feeding the feral cats religiously every morning. I observed her for a few years before I finally approached her and began a conversation. Once I found that she played in the Philharmonic I became really intrigued. I was drawn to her commitment to the cats and the commitment to her career as a gifted musician.
Dorian has an outstanding career, surrounded by stellar fellow musicians and the ultimate in conductors, with world travel, a rich full life, and certainly, not lacking for anything. Loving cats doesn’t have to be a symptom of anything wrong but rather just a love of cats.
Her ex-husband actually started the whole thing. When the two parted, she got the cats!
Originally, it was Dorian’s father that drove her to succeed, to end up surrounded by the very upper echelon of society. Yet in the end, she loves that cats don’t have that need to prove anything. She says that we humans do. That might be what people interpret as cats having attitudes, but really it’s a lack of an attitude. As Dorian says, “They just are and don’t feel they need to be anything else.” While that attitude can irk people, cat lovers either admire that trait or understand it a bit themselves.
Some kids, even though living within the confines of a loving home, can identify too well with feral cats, growing up exposed to many chaotic family elements around them. Some of those kids are lucky and survive and some even find success. And some come to discover their kindred spirit with the feral cat who also somehow survives despite all the obstacles placed in its path. Those now adults know what it takes to overcome. They can pass by a feral cat and not only have compassion for what it’s going through, but also know that that cat deserves a lot of admiration for the skill, wits, and the sometimes seemingly wily ways that it takes to get through its days on the street.
Dorian’s career was planned by her dad, and she fulfilled it to make him happy, to make him feel accomplished. As a child, she played and practiced her music to please him and at times to appease him. He had very specific goals for her, and she did them for him to feel like a success. You could say that her reward for obeying her dad, and accomplishing his wishes “to a T”, is her great career and optimal life experience.
Her talent and skill with musicianship are just incidental assets that have helped fulfill her eventual mission to care for cats.
In 2001, Dorian working together with Eileen Moon, a cellist, who is also with the New York Philharmonic, founded The Artemis Project. Their mission is to help homeless, distressed animals, mostly cats, in New York City. Their focus is on the most helpless and needy abandoned animals.
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Note: In 2016/17 I was minding my own business writing about cats, art and culture. The goal was to uplift the image of cats so they would be treated better. But the universe played a funny trick on me, and some weird stuff threw my life into a tizzy as if to say, “Do you really want to know what it’s like to be a cat?” Now that I’m back on all “twos”, I wanted to post an article from that time.