KEDI, documentary, not rated, in Turkish with subtitles, Center for Contemporary Arts, 4 chiles
“A cat meowing at your feet, looking up at you, is life smiling at you,” states a gentleman of Istanbul near the end of Kedi, a heartwarming documentary about the feral cats that inhabit the byways of that ancient, vibrant city. Director Ceyda Torun has assembled a starring cast of seven among their countless legion and carefully observes their interactions with the city and its human occupants.
The felines are strong on personality. Psikopat, “the Psycho,” for example, is a brassy dame who traverses the mean streets with unmistakable swagger. “She is the toughest among all the females,” says one Istanbulite. “Trouble for all the fisherman. A fish thief. Arch enemy of the dogs.” Being cats, they naturally display idiosyncrasies. Duman has decided to adopt a certain café, but he resists interaction with the patrons and will not set foot inside. Instead, he beats on a front window with his paws when he wants to be fed. “He’s a cat with manners,” observes the chef. “No matter how hungry he is, he won’t come in, even if the door is open.” The staff returns Duman’s courtesy with tough love, putting him on a vet-designed weight-loss program.
The cinematography, by Charlie Wuppermann, relies on stealthy camerawork shot partly from the peoples’ visual perspective and partly from that of the cats. He must have shredded a lot of clothing slithering along the ground to follow his subjects on their daily rounds and back to their well-concealed homes and their newborn litters. Editing by Mo Stoebe keeps the narrative flowing yet allows time for calm reflection, and the musical underpinning combines unobtrusive “mood minimalism” by Kira Fontana with evocative Turkish pop music of an old-fashioned flavor.
The release of this film can serve as the feel-good chill pill many of us are craving, but it also functions as an antidote to the barrage of anti-cat articles that have been appearing lately. Yes, cats kill birds — although if that is your issue, you will note that they are no match for the seagulls of Istanbul. Yes, it would be better if they didn’t reproduce unchecked. But look at the richness cats offer in return. “Petting a cat gives me a peculiar sense of security,” says one of the film’s humans. “Even though we don’t speak each other’s language, we immediately form a shared language. I imagine having a relationship with cats must be a lot like being friends with aliens.” This patient, gentle film brings us closer to appreciating the wisdom of the man who observes, “If you can enjoy the presence of a cat, a bird, a flower … what can I say, all the world will be yours.”
Boulevardier: Psikopat, “the Psycho”