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Tucson filmmaker nabs Sundance audience award

Youtube favorite 'Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?' a drug educational film that never was

A seven-minute short film warning of the perils of catnip has won the Short Film Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

Tucson filmmaker Jason Willis captured the prize with "Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?," a tongue-in-cheek take on drug education films.

"I'm completely dumbstruck and amazed!," Willis wrote on Facebook.

"Catnip is all the rage with today's modern feline, but do we really understand it?" Willis wrote in the film's press kit. "Is it a source for harmless kicks, or a potentially crippling addiction?"

"Once and for all the facts about this controversial substance are frankly discussed," Willis said, calling his project a "long-lost educational film that never was."

Shot for a budget of just $25, the film features deadpan narration on the pitfalls of nepetalacton cycloalkane, vintage "psychedelic" special effects, and interviews with wild-eyed feline aficianados of the potent plant, which reportedly comes in such strains as Mau Mau Nip Nip and Persian Haze.

Willis is a designer and musician as well as filmmaker, and performed in such standout Tucson punk bands as the Weird Lovemakers and the Knockout Pills.

The punny short is also replete with subtle shoutouts to some of Willis' fellow local punk rock pioneers — watch and see how many you can spot.

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"Catnip" has been watched nearly 350,000 times on Youtube.

"I won this based on the traffic and hits sent to YouTube, so honestly it's totally because of all of you guys — the links that you shared completely made this happen. Fucking madness!," Willis wrote on Facebook. "Now I'm going to open a bottle of wine."

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