Kedi is a warming delight of a doco on the symbiotic relationship between Istanbul’s many street cats and its people. Unmissable if you’re a cat person, unmissable if you’re not.
If things are a bit bleak personally, or you’re weighed down by a sense of foreboding about the direction in which the world is heading, take time out to see Kedi. There’s a range of superlatives that might be applied to this beguiling little doco, which explores the unique relationship between the people of Istanbul and the many thousands of street cats that have been a fixture of the city for centuries: fascinating, delightful, joyous, restorative, uplifting, warming… take your pick. I’d add another descriptor that might seem surprising – romantic!
How so? Several if not most of the folk who feature in the film make claims about the cats that suggest an openness to mystical/spiritual possibilities way out of step with today’s cynical times. These guys are believers, and their belief comes from love. Cat people will understand immediately. Others might struggle to control a reflexive rolling of eyes. But if you’re in the latter camp, the sheer charm of the film and the interactions between its human and feline characters will win you over and have you exiting the cinema smiling from ear to ear. What’s that worth?
Director Ceyda Torun focuses on a colourful mix of artists, restaurateurs, market vendors, fishermen and residents, and their interactions with seven unattached cats of diverse personalities that roam the streets of a single district of Istanbul by the Bosphorus. These cats are nothing like pampered house moggies. They’re independent, sometimes fiercely so, enjoying the run of the district while accepting the food, succour and affection of their human neighbours when it suits them. It’s not all one way, though; the relationship twixt street cat and human is distinctly symbiotic. The cats are a source of joy, if not spiritual nourishment, and inspire many a philosophical moment throughout the film.
Tough-looking fishermen turn tender as they wax lyrical about their favourite local street moggy. One interviewee claims that cats, unlike dogs, are aware of the existence of God and therefore see no cause for making a fuss of humans or showing gratitude for any favours we may bestow upon them. Another declares the cats “our national symbol” – and indeed, it’s clear they’re integral to the personality of the city. Then there’s the café worker used to putting his hand in his pocket to have the local tomcat patched up after scraps, who advises that he and others have running tabs at the vet, and that the contents of the café tip jar are donated to this cause.
You’ll probably find yourself identifying with one of the featured felines – in my case, a gourmet cat too polite or proud to enter his restaurant of choice, who routinely indicates his desire for the delicacies within by pawing at the window until a waiter comes out to deliver the goodies. Ever the outsider, but at least one with taste!
Kedi is beautifully shot, capturing the feel and spirit of the district and the personalities of its street cats and the locals who dote on them. Some of the shots are at cat level, achieved, apparently, by mounting a camera on a remote-controlled toy car. There is no voiceover narrative; rather, the locals provide an ongoing commentary.
Someone observes at one point that if you don’t like animals, you can’t like people. There’s something to that. See, one of the loveliest aspects to Kedi is the humanity the cats bring out in the people, and the harmony in which the two species co-exist.
Australians conscious of the threat cats pose to our native birds and animals might be a bit resistant to the idea of them being left to roam free in hundreds of thousands, but it works in Istanbul. Go with it and enjoy.
Writer/Director: Ceyda Torun
Runtime: 79 min
Australian release date: Kedi showing from Thurs 22 June at Luna Leederville and Luna On SX.
For complete list of film reviews published on this site see Movie Review Archives