Label: Oscilloscope Labs
Synopsis: The thousand year-old relationship between humans and Istanbul’s massive cat population is profiled in this genial, beautifully mounted film.
Special Features: n/a
Short and sweet, Kedi is an extremely well-made portrait of the inseparable relationship between the cats and human living in the portside area of Istanbul, Turkey’s ancient cosmopolitan jewel.
Striking aerial cinematography bookends the film, but much of the narrative occurs from the feline perspective on the ground, at table and chair vantages, and the odd angles cats use to dart, leap, and tumble when they’ve foolishly underestimated a deceptively close tree branch.
Director Ceyda Torun quickly isolates his cats from wayward travelers and tabbies to local characters, from dames, bullies, gentlemen, brats, newborns, extended families, and interlopers, each maintaining relationships with humans on feline terms: the cats choose when and where to visit and stay, each using his & her own means to communicate affection, hunger, and states of I-wish-to-be-alone-now. Humans, in turn, provide shelter, food, and in some cases medical care when it’s clear orphans and ailments beckon compassion.
Good Samaritans include fishermen whose own lives and psychologies have benefitted from animal interaction, while others have adopted free-roamers in spite of having more traditional domesticated cats themselves.
There’s a clear differentiation between the cats of Istanbul and their suburban cousins, and the history of the city’s feline population is told by one of its gifted artists, recounting the cats arrival from moored foreign cargo ships, and their valuable role as pest control magicians, eradicating mendacious rodents who once terrorized locals. Whether it’s early morning risers, daytime hunters, or night owls quietly admiring the city’s lights by the waterside, the cats are citizens, and as the doc’s opening text declares, they’re loved and tolerated by, and irritate humans.
Kira Fontana’s vibe-heavy score is gentle, soothing, and neatly nestled between vintage Turkish pop music, and Alp Korfali and Charlie Wuppermann’s cinematography is stunning, bringing out the rich amber and orange hues of the city’s classic buildings and translucent blue water. Torun also interjects portrait-styled moments of cats with the city and sea as backdrops, emphasizing the beauty of their eyes and fine coats.
Mo Stobe’s editing keeps the film’s pacing tight and trims sequences to their base essentials, ensuring Kedi doesn’t fall into a lull and meander. The wrap-up is neat and sweet, but preceding the finale are some hints of the irreversible urban changes that are replacing classic markets with stark edifices, and slowly robbing the cats of their sprawling home turfs. The subtext is a lament for a potentially significant body of half-wild urbanized cats who may end up as their domesticated relatives – sitting and watching life pass by behind windows instead of enjoying life as roaming tabbies with attitude and time for necessary scratches and dinner from humans co-habitants.
Kedi is currently screening at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.
© 2017 Mark R. Hasan
Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review