STRAY CATS’ STRUT
Review by Steve Scholz
They’re not ungrateful, they just know better.
– Quote from an interviewee in Kedi about the cats.
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing many cats thanks to my family and friends. I’ve also lived a few blocks from a residence in Chicago I called “the cat house”, where no fewer than a dozen cats (and one lonely dog) would sit outside in the warm weather and watch people passing by. I admire those who have cats as pets, especially with the challenges of keeping animals safe and healthy.
But life is quite different in Istanbul, Turkey where the documentary Kedi takes place. That city has hundreds of thousands of stray cats wandering through neighborhoods and making their homes on the streets, in the crevices between buildings, or on the roofs and window sills. “Kedi” is Turkish for “cat,” and while these animals are rarely owned as pets, there’s a symbiotic relationship between the cats and people. Men and women, young and old, find comfort and purpose in their interactions. Fishermen feed them. Artists draw and paint them. Chefs welcome them into restaurants and cafés. The cats steal focus without disrupting everyday lives, and they seem very accepted, and even expected, as part of the culture.
Among the numerous cats in the film, we get to know seven, including Sari, a yellow tabby and new mom; Deniz, the green-and-white young troublemaker at an organic market; and Psikopat, a fierce female shorthair who’s respected, and feared, by many. As director and Istanbul native Ceyda Torun shares her cast of feline and human characters, she also uncovers some mysteries. How did so many different breeds of cats come to live in Istanbul? Why do people feel there’s a connection between cats and a divine higher power? And how are the cats and citizens coping with Istanbul’s changing landscape that’s becoming less natural every year?
The film has beautiful cinematography by Charlie Wuppermann with fantastic shots of Istanbul from the air, sea, and ground level. Plus amazing footage from the cats’ points of view, along with very funny moments of cats chasing mice and birds, being jealous of other cats, and just sleeping. The original music from composer Kira Fontana adds a gentle connecting thread, and various songs from Turkish bands help underscore the tensions and upbeat moments all wonderfully captured by Torun and edited by Mo Stoebe.
Here’s a film to watch in a packed theater. The Sunday afternoon screening I saw had kids and adults laughing and aww-ing throughout the film. Not bad for a subtitled movie without any CGI, animation, or scripted violence. And if you worry this might be just an 80-minute YouTube cat video, you are in for a real surprise.
Directed by: Ceyda Torun
Release Date: February 10, 2017
Run Time: 80 Minutes
Distributor: Termite Films