My only New Year’s Resolution was to watch more documentaries. As much as I love movies — getting lost for two hours and escaping from the overwhelming feeling of panic that comes from the news — watching a documentary is something different.
It can give you the opportunity to not only learn something new, but also to immerse yourself in a topic that you may not have had the chance to engage with.
That’s the reason I found myself wanting to watch more documentaries. I don’t have the time nor the money to travel to a different city or spend hours on the internet reading about an event that took place.
My first venture into this exciting genre of film was Kedi, directed by Ceyda Torun. The film is about the stray cats that live in Istanbul, Turkey and their lives as either wild animals or as tamed cats cared for by people.
Kedi focuses on seven of these cats: Sari, Duman, Bengü, Aslan Parçasi, Gamsiz, Psikopat and Deniz. Each of their stories, although not intertwined amongst each other, are supplemented by interviews of the people that interact with them across the city.
Torun’s approach is an exciting way to experience the different types of behaviors and personalities that cats can display. It is also a fascinating way to better understand the city of Istanbul, showing how even the most unsuspecting aspect of a place can be so important to its culture.
The film is more than just a person sitting on a chair discussing adventures with a specific cat that they’ve interacted with. The cinematographers, Alp Korfali and Charlie Wuppermann, shoot the film in such a way that we get extended shots coming from the point of view of the cats.
It’s as if the camera is attached to each cat as it maneuvers through the city; we have a front row seat to their actions.
It’s a testament to the fantastic filmmaking that during the entire film you not only feel like you’re experiencing the day-to-day life of street cats, but you also have the emotional impact that comes from the connections they make with the people in the city.
A very poignant theme throughout the documentary is the role that these cats have within the community and the individuals that care for them.
The bad rap that cats have is addressed, but instead of reinforcing the idea that cats are indeed ungrateful, the conversations are focused on the therapeutic effect that cats have on the people.
Many people describe themselves as feeling broken in a certain way — from losing all of the money they had saved in a boat accident to the loss of a sense of self — and how caring for the cats has helped them regain a sense of purpose in their lives.
The film uses dispersed aerial shots that display the beauty that is Istanbul. It intertwines these scenes within the narrative structure, which works to perfection, taking us from neighborhoods near the water to the more centralized market.
Accompanying the background is the fantastic score by Kira Fontana, which uses Turkish pop effectively, helping build an atmosphere that makes us feel as if we really are visiting Istanbul.
Additionally, the film makes no attempt to remove the overt anthropomorphization of cats, and that’s where the beauty really lies. It emphasizes how unique and impactful cats are to the daily life of the city.
The stories told could be easily dismissed by some sort of expert who can refute these anecdotes with some sort of research on animal behavior. However, what would the purpose of that be?
These stories impact us because we try to reflect ourselves upon the animals that we surround ourselves with; we believe that our lives can change thanks to them. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong, what matters is the connection we make.
Kedi is a fantastic documentary that gives us a glimpse into the culture of Istanbul. In a way, it also gives us a window into understanding cats and their distinct personalities. The film is a joy to watch and the cats are some of the cutest animals I’ve ever seen.
Kedi can be found on iTunes.