by Ted Zep
(Rating: NA – Genre: Documentary – Director: Ceyda Torun – Starring: Sari, Duman, Bengu, Aslan Parcasi, Gamsiz, Psikopat, Deniz – Runtime: 80 mins.)
Kedi is a Turkish-language documentary about the street cats of Istanbul. The featured kitties have all the personality and charm of the elite of Hollywood.
The camera follows the cats (Sari, Duman, Bengu, Aslan Parcasi, Gamsiz, Psikopat, and Deniz) as they go about their lives. They are mothers, hunters, scavengers, and scamps. The camera shadows them through their daily routines as they forage for food, attention, and adventure.
The cats are shot with elegance and pluck. The ground-level cinematic view shows the world–their world–as they see it. It is trudging feet, mud puddles, and scraps of food. It is the curious hands of children, skittish dogs, and arch enemies ready to do battle over precious territory.
Istanbul is gorgeous. It is lived-in and bustling. It is the unofficial “third character” in the narrative. By dropping the camera from eye-level to ankle-level, one appreciates even the most mundane settings in an unexpectedly energized manner.
There is an inherent charm and magic to the film. The whimsy of the cats and their personalities is infectious. They are simultaneously playful, brooding, and capricious.
This is also the story of the people who love and care for the wandering felines. The vagabonds have been either partially or fully adopted by shop owners, artists, and restaurateurs. The one thing these adoptive parents have in common are kind hearts. They love and respect the cats as precious creatures.
I was a cat owner for just over nineteen years. His name was Howie. He was a 13-lb. silver tabby with more personality than any five people I know combined. He was loyal, silly, and belligerent. He was my best friend.
He passed away a few years ago, just shortly after his birthday. Months prior, he began to develop a lump on his side that concerned me. The vet confirmed that he had cancer. Because of his advanced age, surgery was “too risky.” I was advised to “make him comfortable” for his remaining time. That, I tried to do to the best of my ability.
Howie died on a Saturday morning. It may sound foolish but a tiny piece of me went with him. He and I had been pals going back to my teenage years. In that time I’d experienced quite a bit of life, the least of which was the loss of both of my parents. Howie was the last connective tissue to that period.
I tell that story as a compliment to the film. The love and connection I feel for Howie is present in Ceyda Torun’s final product. She not only loves and respects cats, she sees the greater intrinsic value of the noble creature. This is a love letter to felines and their contribution to our happiness.
There is nothing wrong with dogs. They are fine, loyal creatures. But there is something different about a cat. Cats are persnickety and disdainful. If a cat loves you—hell, even likes you—it is a badge of honor.
This is a wonderful little documentary. It is warm and frisky. Not only does it paint a textured portrait of the people and streets of Istanbul, it contextualizes our relationship with just one of the myriad cohabitants of which we share this planet. Cats aren’t just stand-offish rogues who stalk mice and demand food. They provide companionship, entertainment, and purpose to many who would otherwise have none. Torun’s film encapsulates all the best qualities of the cat into one neat bundle and charmingly reminds us how utterly important they are.
Kedi is currently playing in Akron at the Nightlight Cinema. Showtimes and ticket information can be found here.