Editor’s Note: Kedi opens in limited theatrical release today, February 10, 2017.
“Without the cat, Istanbul would lose part of its soul,” declares Kedi in its opening frames. Set in the ancient city of Istanbul, which people have shared with a vibrant and beloved community of street cats, Kedi dares to embrace optimism in a world overflowing with everything but. This documentary, director Ceyda Torun’s first feature-length film, follows the lives of several of Istanbul’s street cats, eschewing the usual danger and tragedy found in the cinematic lives of pets, opting instead for the serene, almost spiritual calm of our feline acquaintances. None of the kitties in Kedi are owned, indoor cats — it’s debatable whether we can ever truly own a cat anyway — but they are all loved, valued, and spoiled rotten, as is their due.
Kedi is a gentle, meditative film full of cheery pop music and beautiful cinematography, the camera lingering on cuddly close-ups or flowing through the ancient city, both in soaring aerial shots and cat’s-eye views at ground level.
There are cats from all over the world in Istanbul, thanks to its history as a major seaport, and with the diversity of cat breeds comes a diversity of temperament. The cats, most a little bedraggled from rough lives in the streets, range from affectionate to bossy to polite little gentlemen. They fight over food and love, turn into hunters when they have little ones to feed, and allow humans to feed and pet them when the mood strikes.
The humans in turn may get temporarily irritated at a cat like Deniz, who likes to commandeer the fruit baskets at the local market, or Bengü, the mama cat who has somehow wormed her way into the hearts of the tough, no-nonsense working class men she lives around, but people also ascribe a host of positive influences to their little diva-esque companions. “Cats absorb all your negative energy,” declares one cat fan, and it’s a lovely thought, but not perhaps the most accurate, at least from the perspective of cat owners (like yours truly) who have spent roughly 39% of their time on this earth wielding a carpet cleaner thanks to the adorable but messy hairball producers in their home.
None of the kitties in Kedi are owned, indoor cats — it’s debatable whether we can ever truly own a cat anyway — but they are all loved, valued, and spoiled rotten, as is their due.
Then again, the problem is surely less with the cats then with ourselves. Take Psikopat, a.k.a. Psycho, the formidable female who is likely to become a fave of viewers. She’s rough around the edges and very demanding, but also bravely defends her mate and her food from a fluffy orange opportunist. Psycho is, of course, labeled a nagging harridan of a wife by humans, because we humans are a goddamned mess and there is nothing we won’t sully with our ridiculous stereotypes. When the cat-view cam glides along the street, people turn into nothing but legs and feet and the occasional hand leaning down to feed a feline; their heads are nowhere to be seen, and after a while, as pleasant and well-meaning as every human being in this film is, you start to understand why a cat might very well choose to ignore the part of the human that holds the brain.
Kedi is a gentle, meditative film full of cheery pop music and beautiful cinematography, the camera lingering on cuddly close-ups or flowing through the ancient city, both in soaring aerial shots and cat’s-eye views at ground level. There’s some humor in the photography, too, light visual puns and long shots with cats all but hidden in the margins, watching the humans do their little human things, which surely make these little lions question our sanity, and should probably make us do the same.
Kedi, a gentle, meditative documentary about the cats that populate the streets of Istanbul, says a lot about our feline friends but even more about ourselves.