Kedi is a new documentary seemingly about street cats in Turkey. However, director Ceyda Torun goes so deep, she opens her storytelling to offer insight into many other issues, as well. For instance, the treatment of animals opens a window into understanding societal values. Early in the documentary, there seems to be a consensus about the feral cats. In Turkey, the consensus is that this is not a problem. In fact, the people who participate in the documentary show a human side that is welcoming, inquisitive and caring towards these animals. This is indeed, a rarity, especially for a non-democratic country.
Kedi’s narrative itself is filled with loving touches. Torun angles the camera towards the cats and their many caretakers with varied perspective, showing that each one is unique, with a specific personality. The long takes and close-ups make the viewer connect to these characters and wonder what it would be like to meet them. Torun takes the quotidian out of this equation and turns these streets and its inhabitants into beautiful beings.
As Torun invites individuals to talk about the street cats they each take care of, one theme becomes evident: not only is there a lot of care and love for these street cats but also an admiration for how free they are. Although different perceptions about the lives of these cats abound, freedom is a constant. Appreciating the beauty of life, such as it is, is another constant. For instance, during one of the long takes of the streets of Istanbul, the voice of an old man rises as he explains that not being able to enjoy the cats is akin to not being able to enjoy the simplicity and beauty of the little things. It is in the appreciation of everyday beauty that one can find happiness.
There are plenty of meditative moments like that throughout the film, where different characters share their feelings about cats and what their lives are like, with a hefty dose of anthropomorphizing. During another vignette a young woman wearing a burka explains that she appreciates the delicate elegance of cats. She mentions how not having options in her attire leaves her with a challenge of experiencing and celebrating her own femininity in her everyday life. She longs for that balance between individuality and femininity that she projects onto these street cats. She is no doubt struggling, as we can hear it in her voice. Yet, it might be easier to share freely these thoughts through the idea of a cat.
One of the many cinematographic strategies that Torun employs to elicit sympathy is keeping the hand-held camera low to the ground. As she traverses the streets of Istanbul with ease, we either follow the cats or get a glimpse of their perspective though the maneuvering of these streets. What is interesting here are the narratives that emerge around the cats. Whether or not you find yourself a cat or animal lover, this documentary has something to offer, as its self-reflective narrative explores some of the elements that we as humans value in life. It is a simple rumination of the power of community that touches on more complex issues of a satisfaction with life.
Kedi runs 79 minutes, is in Turkish with English subtitles and is not rated. It opens in our South Florida area this Friday, March 3, at O Cinema Wynwood, the Bill Cosford Cinema, the Classic Gateway, the Living Room Theaters, Movies of Delray and Movies of Lake Worth. It later arrives to the Miami Beach Cinematheque on March 17. A screening link was provided by Oscilloscope Laboratories for the purposes of this review.