Rating: 4 / 5
I’m not a cat person but I adore the ancient, proud city of Istanbul. Kedi (cat in Turkish) is a feature-length documentary that allows an intimate, mostly unguarded insight into the lives of the Turkish people through their love of the city’s thousands of stray cats.
On a recent trip to the city I was taken by the beautiful cats that gathered at my feet as I enjoyed a coffee near the Blue Mosque. Thousands of years of survival seem to have created a breed of cats with particularly ’needy’ eyes that look directly up at you as they beg for food. Legend has it that they arrived on the many ships that docked at ancient Constantinople and decided to stay and raise families.
We get to meet seven cats with their distinct personalities and lifestyles. They have exotic names like Duman (the gentleman) and Deniz (the social butterfly) and aren’t owned by anyone; in fact they seem to be the ones who own the besotted people of their patch.
The cat-loving citizens of Istanbul who are featured represent a cross-section of society, from business owners and fishmongers to homeless people. They talk with great enthusiasm about their philosophy of life as demonstrated by the actions of the always fascinating cats.
According to one man in the film, “Dogs think people are gods, but cats don’t! They know better,” and according to another, “People who don’t love animals can’t love people either.” Yet another theorises that having a relationship with a cat is what having a relationship with an alien would be like!
We are reminded of the whole idea of cats’ supposed ’nine lives’ and their ability to leap all sorts of places in a single bound (and then land on their feet) which for some implies a mythical ’superhero’ status.
There is also an environmental message embedded which states a concern for the survival of cats (and ultimately healthy people) because of the expansion of development without green space. That is because of a concern that the disappearance of the cats would see an increase in the prevalence of the giant rats in the Ottoman sewers.
The cinematography is stunning as we are offered a cat’s-eye view at their level of their many daily activities. It’s one of the things that really draws you into this unique film experience.
The film has a limited big-screen release but is also available via YouTube Red, a new subscription service, which could officially make this the ultimate internet cat video.
One of the most profound statements in the film comes from a fisherman who has been inspired by a cat family that he cares for. The patriarch cat helped him out at his lowest point of self worth. He says that the cat family constantly reminds him that we are all creatures worthy of God’s love.
Highlight: Istanbul, feline frolics and superb cinematography
Red flag: none