"Everything is beautiful if you look at it with love."-"Kedi"
Hundreds of thousands of cats have roamed freely through the streets of Istanbul over the last several thousand years. The people of the city treat the cats like neighbors, not like annoying strays snatching food off tables. Indeed, part of living in Istanbul is making peace with the cohabiting cats.
"Kedi" (Turkish for "Cat") is a kitty lover's paradise. The documentary boils down to 80 minutes of cats and kittens doing the darnedest things, with a surplus of adorability to keep it moving. This isn't quite the cinematic equivalent of YouTube cat videos though; instead we get a view into the mindset of the Turkish citizens who treat the city's strays like their own children.
We meet several cats that act as the stars of the film, including one that everyone has informally named "Psycho," because she drives fear into the hearts of not just all of the neighborhood cats, but the dogs as well. There's also Gamsiz, which is Turkish for "Carefree," who shows up to a family-owned bakery with different injuries every week, but he is always well tempered and friendly.
As humans, we are incapable of assigning alien desires and meaning to the actions of felines. Instead, we anthropomorphize them and expect them to fit inside the rigid characteristics we assign them. So "Kedi" feels more like a documentary focused on the homeless than it does an episode of "Planet Earth." By the end of the movie we care about Psycho and Gamsiz as if we've gone through a journey with them instead of just seeing them be adorable and on the street.
"Kedi" isn't just a film about looking at cute cats as they run and climb around an ancient city. It's about how the lives of these cats mirror humanity and how their "owners" need them just as much as the cats do. Even those who don't really like cats will be fascinated by the sociological exploration of a city and its inhabitants. The symbiotic relationship between the not-quite-feral felines and their endlessly patient humans makes for a story as touching as it is charming.
As a portrait of a city, "Kedi" truly allows the viewer to get swept up in the textures, nooks and crannies of the ancient metropolis. It's heartening to see a city and its inhabitants working together for the simple goal of protecting cats. It shows that we could really do anything if we put our minds to it, or at least could work together longer than five minutes at a time.
"If you can enjoy the presence of a cat, a bird, a flower... what can I say? The world will be yours."- "Kedi."
Dir. Ceyda Torun