James Bartlett purrs his way through Kedi, which screened at this year’s Melbourne Film Festival (28 July – 14 August).
Instanbul has been in the spotlight recently – for all the wrong reasons – so it’s refreshing to watch this short and sweet Turkish-language documentary about the furry symbols of the capital city.
In Kedi we see a totally different side to the ancient city, specifically the feral felines that roam the ancient city. Instanbul is dominated by them, and they pad around the streets, roofs, shops, restaurants and even the underground, enjoying what seems to be an endless heaven of feeding, watering, stroking and tickling from the inhabitants, all of whom see them as much a part of the capital as themselves.
There’s no real narrative or structure here, jut explanatory voiceover and interviews with the local people. Few of the cats are kept as pets – they just come and go as they please – and some have names, while others don’t. If you’ve ever had a cat or even tried to befriend one, you’ll see that this makes sense: they’re discerning beasties.
The people explain how they met “their” cat, how “they” became a part of their lives, and, inevitably, how far some of them will go: cooking up pounds of chicken every day, feeding and even housing dozens of them, letting them run amok, and how they helped them come to terms with tough times in their lives.
Many of the citizens have open-ended tabs at understanding vet’s surgeries, such is the frequency they take wounded or sick cats for first aid, and while showing the streets in catcam (at cat-level) and how sneaky (and downright adorable they can be, the kittens especially), many of the cats earn their keep, often as ratters.
While some of the cats are clearly bruisers, the film gets amazingly close to the four-legged inhabitants, and we also get a sense of the beautiful, bustling Istanbul, its cramped alleys and stores selling the latest fashions, artisan jewelry, delicate pastries and fishing lines – the port an obvious favorite hangout. It gives the place a softer edge, and I certainly never knew how cats dominated the lives of people here.
In a world where dogs seem to have been deified way more than is necessary (I can almost see the raging emails of complaint already), it’s refreshing to simply listen and watch the world of cats that’s captured here.
Sure there are many moments that cause coos, awws and moans of adoration – and laughter – but it never gets too sentimental or slushy (even if we never find out what happened to the kitten taken to the vet for example; clearly it wasn’t good), but whether you’re a cat person, a dog person or neither, this is worth seeing as a snapshot and different view of an ancient place that, right now, certainly seems to need all the calm and happiness the anonymous cats can muster.
Yes, it’s easy to say that this is the ultimate cat video – MiaowTube deluxe, as it were – but there’s more to it than that.