Do you love cats? Do you spend most of your day trapped in a vortex of adorable cat videos on YouTube? Is your second language LOLCat? Is ‘I Can Has Cheezburger’ bookmarked on your laptop? Well then KEDI is for you! While director Ceyda Torun’s absolutely adorbz documentary spotlights the personality-packed kittehfaces of Istanbul, it speaks to the power these felines can provide humans – the power to love, laugh and heal.
To understand the essence that is Istanbul, you’ll need to love and respect cats. Hundreds upon thousands have roamed the streets for many years, running wild like furry four-legged street urchins. They are synonymous with the culture there – so much so, stands on the roadsides have signage stating the cups of water are for cats only. Cats prowl the city, making use of its inhabitants for survival, but repaying the favors with greater reward for the humans. Through the lives of seven cats – charming Sari, emotional Bengü, “neighborhood psychopath” Psikopat, social butterfly Deniz, hunter Aslan Parçasi, “player” Gamsiz, and gentlemanly Duman – we see the joy, purpose, introspection and drive they bring to their caretakers.
This is a ringing testament to how cats – even the feral ones – can enrich the lives around them, teaching people empathy, compassion and responsibility. Plus, they seem to bestow so much pleasure on their human fwends. My favorite are the cafe workers who know Duman’s selective, picky tastes and adapt to his “demands.” You’ll take genuine enjoyment from all who anthropomorphize these felines. When you spend enough time observing them on screen, I guarantee you will bestow human qualities on them too.
Most poignant are the interviewees who’ve gone through hardships and trauma and have now dedicated their lives to making their furry companions’ lives better. An almost innocuous comment from one of the fishmongers, who says, “People who don’t love [cats] can’t love people,” is palpably resonant. One town citizen nurses motherless, abandoned, tiny mewing kittehs back to health by the bayside, feeding them in cumbersome regular intervals. They provide the therapy and kindness he needed post-nervous breakdown, so now it’s his turn to pay it forward. Another gentleman strolls the street handing out food to his furry feline fwends. One woman confesses she hands out 20 pounds of chicken to the city strays.
The film doesn’t delve too deep into darker elements, like death and population control measures, only gently touching on the accidental deaths. It briefly goes into the city’s changing landscape and what that means for these majestic love-givers. And never does it go into the smell of the city, which I can only imagine is not the greatest of purrrfumes. Eh, it’s just not that kind of documentary. It hisses at negativity.
You’d think a documentary on cats couldn’t ever be cinematic, but there’s where you’re wrong. Charlie Wuppermann’s cinematography gives this film an elegant edge. Mo Stoebe’s edits makes their daily-life portraits flow, adding polish. Kira Fontana’s score imparts a sound of casual precision. These breezy vignettes provide a multitude of profundity about life, health and human nature – at least to those who are blessed by the presence of these god-like creatures.
KEDI is now playing in NYC. It opens in Los Angeles (The Royal), Pasadena (Pasadena PlayHouse) and Orange County (University Town Center) on February 17.