This enchanting, leisurely and good-natured documentary combines two of my favourite things in the world: cats and the city of Istanbul. Some places are dog countries, and some are cat countries; from my three visits to Turkey and Istanbul in particular, it definitely appeared a dominion of cats of all shapes and colours. Kedi captures the indolent grace and resilience of the city’s free-roaming felines, as well as the heartfelt and loving testimonies of the people who look after them.
The cats are everywhere in Istanbul, hanging out at the markets, restaurants, fishing piers, sitting on the roofs, benches and car hoods (my own favourite cat memory from visiting Istanbul was a tabby curled up asleep in a don’t-give-a-damn fashion on a heap of embroidered cushion covers is a souvenir store I wandered into). Kedi singles out a few individual cats, following their habits and daily routines, which couldn’t have been an easy task since cats are not exactly known for their willingness to cooperate. There’s even a night-vision sequence of a cat hunting mice in a pipe. While there are a few cute and amusing moments, the overall mood is matter-of-fact and without excessive tweeness. Most striking are the long close-ups of the feline faces, which truly bring home the beauty, inscrutable mystery and the sheer exotic allure of these amazing creatures.
Kedi is also a portrait of Istanbul, with the stunning aerial shots of the Bosphorus and the city harbour alternating with the decidedly unglamorous footage of the working city, fish guts and all. It interviews a number of people who let the proudly independent four-legged vagabonds into their lives, and movingly describe the joy and comfort the cats bring. Some say that the cats absorb the negative energy, and that caring for the cats helped them overcome their own personal issues. One woman, an artist, says that it’s hard to be a female in Istanbul, and that the grace of the cats reminds her of what’s good about being feminine. They describe the cats’ personalities and quirks, likes and dislikes (every cat owner knows that every cat is weird in its own unique way). They express concern over the knocking down of the old neighbourhoods to make room for the new highrises, and what will happen to the cats in this gentrified world order.
Moving at a gentle pace and helped by good choices of music, including a few Turkish pop songs, Kedi is thoughtful, gorgeous and a must for any cat lover.