TOBY WOOLASTON views a film all about the homeless population of Istanbul. The homeless cat population, that is.
Most have experienced the mesmerising quality of cats and their unique personalities. In his first feature length film, Turkish director Ceyda Torun has created an urban wildlife documentary that gives a snapshot of a city’s fascination with its homeless feline population.
Kedi (Turkish for ‘cat’) is a charming film that traverses the urban landscape of Istanbul, telling stories of its large semi-domesticated cat population and the people who care for them. The film operates loosely as a social anthropology documentary and a portrait of mankind’s relationship with their feline counterparts. One thing’s for sure, Lolcats this isn’t.
Much of the footage is taken from the cats’ eye view, with Torun’s camera getting down and dirty among the nooks and crannies of Istanbul’s back streets. Torun uses drones, radio control cars, and hand-held cameras to evoke a pseudo guerrilla style of film-making that gets right in amongst the cats’ lives. Despite the film’s lo-fi attitude, it delivers some stunning cinematography and if cats aren’t your bag then the film still offers a wonderful look at the colourful street-life of Istanbul.
Throughout, various cat ‘owners’ pontificate philosophies and life lessons learnt from their moggies. One says, “A cat meowing at your feet, looking up at you is life smiling at you.” It might be life smiling at you or just a hungry cat—either way, many cat owners will relate to the film’s sentiments.
At Kedi’s heart is a subtext that offers an insightful comparison with human homelessness. Many of the film’s stories operate as a parable of the less fortunate and should remind many of us that we are only an adverse turn from similar circumstances. As one cat guardian ponders: “The troubles that street cats or other street animals face are not independent of the troubles that we all face.”
Despite this, Kedi remains a little too upbeat in its scope and seems to ignore the many realities of a city overrun (as some would consider) by cats. For some, Kedi will be a fascinating look at a city’s homeless population; for others, this will be a Gareth Morgan nightmare.