“A cat meowing, looking up at you is life smiling at you.”
Truer words have probably been spoken but these twelve in this exact order ring closer to the heart more than the others. This is one of the last few lines from the acclaimed Turkish documentary on ‘kedi’: that is, cats.
But that is not what Kedi is only about. Kedi is a visually captivating aimless tale of love and connections between the people and cats of one of the most culturally rich and diverse cities on the planet – Istanbul. I use the term ‘diverse’ in its proper positively intended way, mind you. A soulful mix of the ancient and the modern playing a colorful regatta of good vibes all around. All to deliver one simply quaint message on the importance of love and the joys of life.
Kedi follows the tales of numerous cats and the people who take care of them. By the young and the elderly stories are told of problems, responsibilities, and of how the feline population of Istanbul goes about and act as an outlet for humans to be happy. And it does this all so extremely well.
Kedi never comes across as preachy or like an animal-rights hippie propaganda piece and that is exactly why it manages to deliver its payload of fluffy goodness in a way that lets you both thoroughly enjoy and think about what is happening on the screen. Sure, looming real problems, such as residential urbanization and the increasing lack of empathy in today’s increasingly cold world, are briefly touched but they never become the main topic as Kedi clearly draws the line and knows precisely what it wants to be and that is, quite ironically, being human. The right kind, that is.
Now you might be thinking how exactly Kedi achieved this. It’s no short wonder that it owes it all to the crew that painstakingly went into nooks and crannies to get all they could on the stars, the cats, they wanted to feature. They managed to find things out about the cats that not even their humans knew of. “She has given birth but I am not sure where. I am sure that she we will get furious if another cat attacks her kittens,” said an interviewee as the camera diligently followed a tabby into a warehouse to show her assume her position as a menacing guard to a Bombay cat who is passing by.
It is not only the hard work of the crew that shines in Kedi. All the different cats and their humans have their own little amusing tales to tell as they each say highly quotable wisdoms.
“Meow,” Bengu meowed.
Marvelous. Seriously, though, most of what is depicted in Kedi is brimming with warmth and will make you heartily laugh like without worry when you see all the different antics of the various cats. There’s this one cat called Psychopath who’s the toughest gal in town. She has dogs cowering before her and she’s even got a male cat under her who she keenly watches over to ensure he isn’t stolen away by other more graceful cats. A real Babushka, no? Then there’s the mafioso rivalry over territory between Gamsiz and the new kitter in town known as Ginger as they chase each other around and intrude into poor Gece’s home and eat his food.
There are moments of sadness and quietness in Kedi as well. A kitten who has been attacked by a bigger cat and has to be taken to a vet. The man who had a nervous breakdown and his only road to recovery was finding happiness again when he got involved with the feline ones. A clear contrast is emphasized: find your rose in the midst of the gravel. And that arduously brings the point home with finesse. As someone who has raised many cats, and lost a decent number of them to Death, Kedi reminds you of the necessity of the values of Stoicism in one’s life.
Coming to the technical of the review, I have to say that the directing and cinematography are absolutely gorgeous. Cuts to aerial views and shots from the water of Istanbul after every turn of the spotlight on a meowser really signifies the lives of them all. Then you have the aforementioned efforts of the crew to chase the cats to get that perfect shot too. These paired with the beautifully arranged soundtrack of xylophones, jazz, classical, and traditional Turkish beats really make up a high quality budget – especially on the big screen. I swear, if they happen to screen Kedi here in my city then I will be at the cinema in a heartbeat. Fingers crossed.
This documentary has been a deeply enjoyable ride for me. It’s one of the few animal focused documentaries that actually have soul. It also reminds me a lot of Tekkon Kinkreet, heh. Cat lover or not, I highly recommend Kedi. You can catch it on YouTube.