For centuries, stray cats have roamed the streets of Istanbul. The fact that this metropolis has been teeming with felines living in the streets isn’t treated as a nuisance by the denizens of the ancient city, but instead the cats are a part of the culture openly embraced by the people. The cats and how the people of Istanbul relate to these wandering creatures is the subject of the documentary Kedi from director Ceyda Torun. In an era of constant political turmoil in both the United States and Turkey, the heartwarming humanity on display within Kedi is a welcome sight, as Torun crafts a movie that highlights the best of humanity through our relationship with animals in what could easily be described as the greatest cat video ever made.
Kedi follows a number of cats as they traverse the streets of Istanbul, feeding off the scraps they find in the streets and whatever is handed to them by the people nearby. The camera swoops down close to the ground as it follows the felines as they make their individual journeys in search of food, or simply as they go catting about. There’s just a variety of cats that are featured in the movie and it’s impossible not to get swept up in the adorable nature of these beings as they display their diverse personalities. You get a sense of the territorial nature of the cats as rivalries are formed before our eyes. There’s also the maternal nature on display as the film opens with a mother searching for scraps of food to bring back to her litter of kittens. Kedi provides one with a sharp sense of the cat’s fiercely independent nature and also its willingness to befriend humans, and it all leads to joyous overload of cuteness.
Ceyda Torun also follows the people who tend to these stray cats and the connection that these people make with their unofficial pets. People from all walks of life, from shopkeepers to sailors, form bonds with certain cats of the city and care for these creatures, often to great personal expense in veterinary bills. It’s amazing to watch the best aspects of people come through in caring for these cats. There are people who spend their free time walking the streets looking for kittens in need of care and feeding them by hand. There are shopkeepers who allow these cats to enter their stores and setup makeshift homes in which they’re free to come and go as they please. It’s funny to watch restaurateurs explain the shifting tastes of their preferred feline companions, as one tells us how his cat has abandoned roast beef for turkey. Nobody is under any obligation to care for these cats and yet most do so because it’s the humane thing to do, and it makes Kedi just an all-around heartwarming cinematic experience.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in despair with the unsettling turn of events in the world. That’s why Kedi is such a vital and welcome experience right now. It’s a movie that shows people at their best as well as an array of extremely cute cats. There’s always going to be ugliness in our world which is why we need movies like Kedi to illustrate the good that people do simply out of the goodness of their heart, and how our relationship to animals make us better people as a whole. When there’s so much in the news that makes you sad on a daily basis, spending 80 minutes smiling at the antics of adorable cats is much needed respite.
- Overall Score
Exploring the stray cats that populate the streets of Istanbul, Kedi is a joyous documentary experience that highlights the better nature of humanity through the relationships that the people of Istanbul form with the city’s feline population.