Review: Kedi (2016)

Kedi (2016)

Directed by: Ceyda Torun | 79 minutes | documentary

Without a cat, Istanbul would lose part of its soul. That is the claim of one of the residents of the Turkish port city, perhaps the only place on earth where an innumerable amount of cats adorn almost every nook and cranny of the streets and roofs. They belong to no one and everyone at the same time. People seem to accept, many even appreciate the eternal presence of the furry four-legged friends. Yet it is so much more than just a habit. Behind every ‘kedi’ there is an adventure and for cat lover and director Ceyda Torun, following several cats closely (paw) was a unique way to express in ‘Kedi’ her love for the city and all its inhabitants, humans and animals, with to share with a wider audience. The cheerful documentary premiered in February 2016 at the !f Istanbul Independent Film Festival and has since made its way to many theaters outside this impressive city, where the life of a stray cat is not so bad.

It soon becomes apparent that the cat cannot do without the people, but that it is just as true the other way around. While workmen earn a living in shops, restaurants, the harbor or the colorful food halls, cats provide the city with a playful or fairytale-like character. Torun grew up in Istan(beesten)bul and knows better than anyone what influence street cats can have on the inhabitants of the city. The cats provide a certain self-reflection: the behavior of cats makes people aware of their own attitude and outlook on life. Thus, the focus in ‘Kedi’ is on seven cats, all with a different appearance, their own personality and a cute story.

Despite the fact that the stray cats are free to go where they want, they know exactly where or who they can go for a tasty snack, loving attention or a safe, warm place to sleep. A bond of trust is created on both human and animal levels. Residents who feel – to a greater or lesser extent – ​​responsible for taking on the care themselves, take turns speaking and all have an individual reason why a particular cat appeals to them. One person finds the graceful or charming demeanor admirable, the other has respect for a cat’s own will or the hunting instinct. It is wonderful to see that everyone is left in their own way. The cats are not owned by anyone but have been given a suitable (nick) name. This further confirms the sympathy for the animals by local residents and gradually even the viewer develops a preference for cats.

Although it must have been a challenge for Torun and her team to obtain the desired footage, they managed to present it to the public in a very ‘cateristic’ way. With the help of specially developed cat cameras, it has been possible to film the animals at eye level, with the creative result that the experience world of cats is actually viewed from their perspective. In addition, not only through the cats but also through aerial images, the wonderful environment comes into its own. In particular, the varied use of close-ups, incidence of light, slow-motion images and appropriate music (composed by Kira Fontana) contribute to the cinematographic and refined look of the documentary.

‘Kedi’ is original in many ways. The combination between the behavior of cats and the accompanying stories of different citizens ensures that deeper themes such as culture, religion and political issues come to the fore. After watching the documentary, one thing becomes clear: humans and animals can learn a lot from each other.

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