When the alternate, dystopian universe we are all currently residing in is nothing more than a horrid dumpster fire with daily alerts that stress is taking years off of our lives, sometimes all we really want to do is curl up with a
bottle of glass of wine and watch silly cat videos. If you’re a dog person, it may seem wise on surface appearances alone to stay away from the absurdly adorable documentary Kedi, which follows the cats that roam free in the streets of Istanbul, but for the sake of your sanity and blood pressure, it may do you some good to watch the undeniably charming film. Running at just over an hour, this delightful film reminds, though shallow on paper, makes for a great reminder that decency can be detected in how human beings treat the animals they inhabit the world with.
Of the hundreds of thousands of cats that roam the streets of Istanbul freely, filmmaker Ceyda Torun followed just a few of our feline friends and their daily journeys. Wandering from one spot from another and far from the domesticated, house cats that we in the U.S. keep as pets, these cats are just as much apart of a the city’s society as the people who have befriended them. Each individual that is interviewed about the cats they interact with have their own tales to tell. Considering the fact that they’ve been a part of the city for thousands of years, everyone who grows up in Istanbul or lives there has their own story to tell about a cat. From one that frequents a shopkeepers door, refusing to beg for food but letting the owners know when they’re hungry, to a man who has taken on a mother and her liter in repayment to an act of kindness he experienced, to those who live on the docks and watch the fish markets, each individual treats these animals with the respect some can’t even muster to give their fellow human being. For what is such a slight tale, it’s also a surprisingly, remarkably poignant one.
Torun understands the nature of the story that she’s telling and is smart to end the film when she does, rather than chance becoming redundant, though with the people who live in the city and the stories they have up their sleeves, it isn’t difficult to imagine the wealth of situations and tales they could come up with to entertain the viewer. Torun captures the world of her film from a cats point of view, low to the ground at times and then towering from impossibly odd angles at others, demonstrating an impressive eye for beautiful scenery and refusing to rely solely on viewers being distracted by her cute and furry subjects.
An ancient city where these ancient animals roam free, there are perhaps lessons to be learned from the hospitality that humans show them, demonstrating a lifestyle where every person and animal is welcome and worthy of a home. Kedi may not be an obvious head scratcher, but it may be the film you need to take a deep breath and think for a moment that everything is going to be okay.