“Kedi” means cat in Turkish. And while you don’t have to be crazy about cats to enjoy this documentary, it would certainly help.
As that Turkish title indicates, “Kedi” is shot on the streets of modern Istanbul, with director Ceyda Torun, who was born in the city, and her intrepid cameraman and co-producer, Charlie Wuppermann, investigating the antics of half a dozen or so frisky felines.
Street cats, unowned and on their own, have been a feature of Istanbul life for uncounted centuries, and according to “Kedi” their presence “embodies the indescribable chaos, the culture and the uniqueness that is the essence of Istanbul. Without them, the city would lose part of its soul.”
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Torun intended the film as “a love letter to those cats and the city.” And one of “Kedi’s” virtues is the picture it provides of modern Istanbul, giving us a dawn-to-dusk tour of the metropolis and showing us neighborhoods that feel very much like the real, everyday Istanbul, not the tourist mecca we usually see.
Mostly, though, we see cats, engaging in all manner of species-appropriate activities: running, foraging, harassing mice, crawling in and out of tight spaces, accessing inaccessible ledges, taking cat naps, engaging in cat fights, etc.
Adding interest are the humans who, for a variety of reasons, both respect and look after these animals, giving them their freedom but helping to ensure that they don’t starve to death.
One woman admires cats because “they have the femininity that women have lost,” while another says that a relationship with a cat is like “being friends with an alien.”
Perhaps the most interesting response to cats was a theological one, with one person offering the following analysis:
“Dogs think people are God, but cats don’t. Cats are aware of God’s existence. Cats know that people act as middlemen to God’s will. They’re not ungrateful, they just know better.”
By the time “Kedi” puts these animals through their paces, only one essential question remains unanswered: Will the dogs of the Dardanelles demand equal exposure? This could be a trend.
Director: Ceyda Torun.
An Oscilloscope Films release. Running time: 80 minutes. In Turkish with English subtitles. In Miami-Dade: O Cinema Wynwood, Bill Cosford Cinema; in Broward: Gateway.