Kedi – Film Review by Pat Viale
Director: Ceyda Torun
Star: Bülent Üstün
Turkey may have seen great political upheavals in recent times, a failed coup, thousands of people arrested and tens of thousands in the police force, education and the legislature sacked from their jobs but in Turkish-born director Ceyda Torun’s first feature-length documentary, Kedi, it appears that for feral cats, it is pussy heaven! Set in the backstreets of Istanbul, this gentle documentary shows how the huge army of cats who roam the city are prized and cared for by its inhabitants who value them above all others.
Kedi is a cat lover’s dream. Not following a structured narrative, it meanders down back alleys, though market places, over walls and through open windows, just as the cats do. We meet cats of every age, shape and colour, clever cats, lazy cats, aggressive cats, but what they all have in common is that they are accepted as an integral and important part of the community and their foibles and eccentricities seem a source of amusement rather than irritation for the humans with whom they come in contact.
What is unusual about Torun’s film is that far more men than women are interviewed and it is the men who seem to have a particular bond with the feline population. One man tells us that there are hundreds of thousands of cats living wild on the streets and explains that many of their ancestors arrived on ships where they were kept to control the vermin. Arriving in Istanbul and finding it appealed to them, they jumped ship and settled in the city.
A symbiotic bond often develops between the moggies and their human carers. Two of the people interviewed tell how looking after the cats helped them recover from psychiatric problems and traumatic experiences in their lives. One of the most engaging sequences in the film is when a fisherman tells how a cat helped save his livelihood – “God brings us closer to him in different ways. For me it was these animals. I guess I was worthy of his love.”
Though the more fastidious among us might not approve of how freely the cats wander around the cafés and markets and sleep among the produce, it is impossible not to be won over by their intrepid, independent spirit. The film also offers a fascinating glimpse of the parts of Istanbul a tourist would never see and for this alone it is worth watching but if a cat has ever played a part in your life or you just feel like passing an hour and a half at a feel-good movie, this is a film you shouldn’t miss.