Featuring Yaman Barlas, Galata “Sari”, Arzu Göl, Kemal Suncu, Karaköy “Bengü”, Necati Özer, Hamdi Selami Karaci, Mine Söğüt, Teoman Toraman, Kandilli “Aslan Parçasi”, Yilmaz Yildiz, Samatya “Psikopat”, Vecdi Kelav, Erdoğan Amca, Elif Nurşad Atalay, Organik “Deniz”, Bahri Artuğ, Ayren Gülyurt, Ali Önerge, Hacer Pervin Kurt, Bomonti Organik Pazar Ahali, Gülsüm Ağaoğlu, Gülizar Kartal, Bülent Üstün, Cihangir “Gamsiz”, Murat Söğütlüoğlu, Eda Dereci, Laçin Ceylan, Süleyman Erdoğan, Nişantaşi “Duman”, Fatih Doğan, Ülkü Demirtiken and Erol Köroğlu.
Directed by Ceyda Torun.
Distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories. 79 minutes. Not Rated.
For many people, cats can be endlessly entertaining. After all, there is a reason that YouTube sometimes seems like one long string of cute cat videos. However, there is much more to cats than simple adorableness. Inscrutable, regal, loving, faithful, independent, intelligent, self-sufficient and yet sharing: cats are complicated companions, but the rewards of sharing the Earth with one are monumental.
They are not as easy to win over as a dog, and each one has a distinct personality, but the effort is repaid in a multitude of ways. “Dogs think people are God, but cats don’t,” explains one of the feline-loving interviewees in the lovely Turkish documentary Kedi. “Cats know that people act as middlemen to God’s will. They’re not ungrateful. They just know better.”
Istanbul-born filmmaker Ceyda Torun, who has relocated to the United States, has returned to her home to document the unique relationship the city has with its cats.
In Istanbul, cats are not merely pets or companions, they are an integral part of life. Thousands of stray cats populate the city streets, weaving themselves into the tapestry of the community. They live in makeshift homes, often in boxes, or Styrofoam cartons, or back alleys. They roam the streets during the day, seeking food and love and companionship, stopping in to visit human friends, exploring and then disappearing into the night.
Kedi is the story of several townspeople who have made it their lives to care for and feed these strays, but it is mostly about several of their favorite cats. (And yes, I did list several of the cats in the cast listing above, because they are all vitally important to the film). And almost inevitably, the people did not choose the cats, the cats chose the people.
These people all have different understandings and motivations for their actions and for spending so much time and effort feeding and caring for Istanbul’s street cat population. (Early on, the documentary suggests that stray cats are the way of life in the city and that the Turkish town has no house cats, though we eventually run into a few of those as well.)
One man used the responsibility of feeding the cats as something of a twelve-step program to recover from a drug and alcohol problem. Another feels that is was almost religious provenance – when he was at his lowest ebb, he saw a strange cat that pointed out a lost wallet on the street to him, a wallet which had the exact amount of money that he needed to repair his fishing boat. Ever since, he has felt it was his calling to care for cats in need like that mysterious cat who saved him. He often tells people his story and he judges them upon their reaction. “Whoever doesn’t believe this story,” he says, “is a heathen in my book.”
However, despite how interesting and thoughtful as the people of Istanbul are on the subject of their furry friends, it is the cats themselves that steal the show and make Kedi necessary viewing. Unlike the cute cat videos that are so important to the internet, Kedi explores the everyday life and survival of cats, their complicated and often rewarding relationships with humans and each other.
They are just as important to the people in their lives, from basic skills like mousing to the more therapeutic mental and physical aspects of sharing a life with a cat.
Despite the fact that they aren’t chasing laser pointers, missing on acrobatic jumps or flying into the air when a mean person puts a cucumber behind them, they are every bit as adorable in their natural habitats as they are on YouTube. Kedi also shows some of the less cute aspects of their life, how despite the fact that they live on the streets they still radiate a regal, suave coolness, and how once they come to trust a human they are dedicated to that person for life.
Kedi is a beautiful and naturally fascinating look at life and nature. And even though it isn’t necessarily trying, it’s as cute as any cat video you’ll find as well. This movie may take a little searching out, but it is absolutely worth the effort to find.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 24, 2017.