[Review by Dayne Rzeszkowski.]
Ceyda Torun’s Kedi is an enchanting, vibrant social document that shows the strong and unique bond between cats and humans, in particular that of the “street cat” and the local communities of Istanbul. This union is more than mere coexistence; it is a defining, warm and long-standing relationship that benefits both parties equally.
This Turkish documentary is shot beautifully, with extremely high-quality cinematography, and its 79-minute run time feels sleek and slender, much like the topics themselves. A large part of its success is how it bounces between these unique and interesting characters (yes, despite being cats – to call them any less would be an insult!), and how their day-to-day lives are lived.
There’s a common thread discussed by the many people interviewed: the cats are very special to them. Many of these individuals connect with the animals deeply, often finding that doing so heals their own wounds or reconnects them with love, laughter and friendship. It is through this eye-opening exploration that the viewer is treated to a sense of warmth and inspiration, as the cats – in their own eccentric and mystical ways – love the people back. They are, in equal parts, grateful and essential to the community.
There are numerous wondrous and heartfelt moments throughout this uplifting film; the people and cats captivate and fascinate in large and meaningful ways. As part of their daily routine, a middle-aged woman and her elderly mother cook 9 kg of chicken and pasta to feed the 60-odd street cats that live in their surroundings. A local market trader raises 6 abandoned kittens, feeding them milk every hour or so through a large syringe. There are many such tales dotted throughout this story.
And then, of course, there are the cats! I wish not to spoil the fun, so I won’t name them all, but my two favourites were Psikopat and Duman. Psikopat, as the name indicates, is the local psychopath, named affectionately by the people she interacts with. She terrorises fishermen, bullying them into giving her their goods (she refuses to eat the cheaper mackerel, insisting that she be served bluefish). She bosses her husband around and eats before him, and if any female competition approaches her boy they are quickly muscled out with force. Duman is the local “gentleman” cat, who insists on never bothering the patrons of his favourite local delicatessen (an upmarket one, to be sure). When he is hungry he stands outside the window and taps on the glass. Being the aristocrat that he is, he will only eat the finest of goods: smoked turkey and manchego cheese.
This tale is littered with many such unique and fun characters and stories that intelligently, seamlessly connect the viewer to this strange, oft unspoken and difficult-to-define relationship. Kedi is a thoroughly enjoyable, fresh and tautly crafted documentary that knows exactly what it wants to achieve, and does so with flying colours. It is essential viewing for cat lovers, which – based on the internet – appears to be around 94% of the world’s population, and highly recommended for anyone who is interested in expanding their minds and worlds.