An adorable and surprisingly insightful documentary about the cats of Istanbul.
June 15, 2017
Forget the idea that you can only be a dog person or a cat person. Kedi puts that theory to rest once and for all. Even if you wouldn't be willing to share your home with a purring companion, there's no chance you won't fall in love with the feisty felines in this Turkish documentary and the contemplative take on life their happy existence provides.
That's the beauty of Ceyda Torun's film: its meowing mousers don't come from YouTube, but from the streets of Istanbul, where cats have roamed for thousands of years. They're pets to no one but beloved by all; strays stalking the pavements in a place refreshingly hospitable to their free-wandering lifestyle. As opening narration from one of the city's two-legged residents describes, here, "the cat is more than just a cat. The cat embodies the indescribable chaos, the culture and the uniqueness that is the essence of Istanbul." That may sound like a bold claim, but it soon proves right on the money.
Graceful cinematography gets up close and personal with the film's adorable protagonists, while at the same time offering a sweeping view of how they're positioned within the hustle and bustle of their surroundings. Sari searches for food for her new kittens, often successfully begging for scraps at cafes. Bengü has her own hungry mouths to feed, and gets jealous when her favoured humans give their attention to others. Deniz flits around a marketplace making friends with customers, while Duman pursues his refined taste for delicatessen food. Aslan Parçasi is often found by the seashore, soaking up the view near a famous local fish restaurant. Gamsiz hops between apartments. As for Psikopat, she rules her neighbourhood, enforcing her will upon animals and people alike.
If they all sound like distinctive characters with their own stories, personalities and behaviours, then it's no less than they deserve. Indeed, that's part of the point of Kedi, which fittingly means 'cat' in Turkish. Boosted by interviews with the humans who know and love these kitties best, Torun treats each animal's journey as she would a person's. In fact, her care and dedication truly lays bare life at street level, her film flitting from bustling eateries to overcrowded areas just like her subjects. Their travels around the city provide a portrait of Istanbul in a microcosm.
Finding the ordinary in the extraordinary is a common aim in documentary filmmaking, with the best non-fiction efforts making viewers reassess everything they thought they knew about something regular and routine. With the aid of deft editing and a whimsy tinged soundtrack, the observational and enlightening Kedi couldn't provide a finer example. It wears its affection on its sleeves — or, perhaps its collar — but pairs that obvious love with thoughtful insights. After watching this film, you'll never come across a cat (or watch a cute cat video on the internet) without wondering what stories it might have to tell.