Kedi is a touchingly sweet film documenting the lives of Istanbul’s street cats. A love letter to the city, as well as its thousands of feline inhabitants, Kedi explores the nature of human beings’ relationships to animals and concludes that our lives are only properly enriched alongside them, and having them be part of our emotional world. “The love of animals is a different kind of love,” suggests a man working at a local fish market. “People who don’t love animals can’t love people either.” Whether you are a fan of cats or not, Kedi will make you fall in love with its feline stars.
A moving and contemplative documentary, Kedi explores themes of love, loss, joy, loneliness, and belonging. Each of the cats featured offers someone something which helps them in a particular way. The film shows a variety of Istanbul residents from different backgrounds talking about their relationships to the cats, and expressing the impact the cat or cats has had on them, their life, even their business, and in every story, it’s clear to see how much joy the cats have given them.
One man tells us that he had a nervous breakdown in 2002, and that looking after and feeding the local street cats cured him. “This truly is therapy,” he says. “No other drug was able to save me.” The local traders express worry about what will happen to the cats when the market is inevitably torn down. “They can’t just fly away like birds”, one says. “It's our responsibility to take care of them as best as we can.” Another man who runs a cafe describes how many times he’s taken their frequent cat visitor to the vet, and that all the local people have “running tabs at the vet.” “Whatever is in our tip box goes to the vet,” he laughs, and we see a black and white cat purring up against his legs. The care and kindness the community offers the cats is incredibly moving to witness.
By focussing the narrative on seven cats - Sari, Bengü, Aslan Parçasi, Psikopat, Deniz, Gamsiz, and Duman - director Ceyda Torun and cinematographer Charlie Wuppermann are able to offer individual and unique stories, told from an intimate perspective. They designed and experimented with a variety of filming techniques, using ‘cat-cameras’; following the cats into dark alleys and deserted basements; flying drones over the rooftops; and slinging cameras low to obtain over-the-cats’-shoulder shots as the felines navigated the city streets. The result is a heartwarming insight into the cats’ distinctive characters and their interaction with human (and cat) communities.
In Kedi, cats seem to be mirrors to people, allowing them to reflect on their lives, and to get in touch with their own humanity. It really is a beautiful film and in it there is a lesson to be learned for us all.