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NEW YORK — Anika Poitier has taken a running gag about a fake rock band and turned it into a mockumentary.

No, it isn’t “This is Spinal Tap.” But that film, along with the documentary “American Movie,” served as inspiration for Poitier’s film, “The Devil Cats,” which will be shown tonight and Friday night at the Tribeca Film Festival.

This story first appeared in the May 6, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“A friend of ours, Sal, came up with the fake band idea years ago,” says Poitier, 32, who soon began referring to herself, her sister Sydney Tamiia Poitier (both are daughters of Sidney Poitier and Joanna Shimkus), and four other friends as The Devil Cats, a band who played no instruments, never performed and adopted fake names like Anita Mandalay and Hellena Handbasket. “As another little joke, Sal said that we could play two songs at his birthday party, and I documented the whole thing.”

Recognizing the comic potential inherent in their story (the women had to be taught how to hold their instruments before playing), Poitier wrote an outline for a mockumentary. Like many other independent filmmakers, the L.A.-based Poitier was on a shoestring budget, so she spent money on locations, hiring a director of photography and food. “Everyone, for the most part, worked for free,” she explains. “We filmed in each other’s houses and we did all our own wardrobe.”

Her sister, Sydney (“Joan of Arcadia”), produced the film and also stars in it alongside their friends Mary Klimek, Lesley Ann Poling, Gillian Lee Whitlock and Jill Crawford. The four women work primarily as hair and makeup artists (Crawford is a caterer) on film sets, so they graciously served as cast members and a built-in crew.

Poitier, who grew up in Los Angeles and attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., spent time modeling and acting before writing two short films. The first was a documentary about the young homeless population in Los Angeles and the second is currently being turned into a feature that, according to Poitier, is about “loneliness and love and imagination.”

In a case of life imitating art imitating life, The Devil Cats, who spend the movie learning how to play together, will actually perform four songs at Plaid before Friday’s midnight screening.

“It’s tongue-in-cheek,” Sydney says of the stage show. “The last time we played Gillian said, ‘My guitar’s not working,’ but she hadn’t plugged into the amp.”

Poitier has already shown the “The Devil Cats” at the the Palm Springs Film Festival and the Sonoma Valley Film Festival, where it won the jury award for best feature in its category. Even though Poitier is hoping the film will get distributed, she has another less lofty goal. “I just hope that people see it, and laugh, and get it,” she says. Emphasizing her point: “Mainly, I just hope people laugh.”

— Jamie Rosen

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