The souls of a city
Kedi is a spectacular demonstration of our unique connections as individuals as well as our connectivity to collective life.
In the most tender of ways, it also shows how under-utilized our human capacity for love and compassion is in most of the world. But in Istanbul, hundreds of thousands of street cats live in tandem with almost 20 million of their humans counterparts and prove an authentic life is dependent on mutual respect and appreciation between all beings.
Beautifully shot, often from a cat’s eye view, the film work is creative and the city of Istanbul—its colours, its energy, its history—is stunning. Just taking a good photo of a cat can prove challenging, so the feat of following and gathering the stories of seven key felines—tame, but without masters—is equally impressive. Using ‘cat cameras,’ drones, and night-vision technology, the filmmakers followed these felines day in and day out, to capture their individual and overt characters. Every ounce of cattiness is on full display as they forage for food, claim territory, raise families and build relationships in the city they’ve embodied for centuries.
While the film’s subject is cats, it’s impossible to see a general species in Kedi. During the Ottoman Empire, ships from around the world stopped in the Istanbul harbour. It’s claimed that cats were carried on these ships to not only deal with rats, but absorb negative energy while underway, and once docked, many would venture onto land and miss their departing boats. As a result, the cats of Istanbul are a motley mix of breeds from all over the world.
Sari, a willowy orange tabby, makes her morning trek through the streets to her local café where she paws at the laps of patrons who gladly share their meals, then into a local shop where—after feeding her kittens she’s raising out back—she naps freely. Every feline on the screen is their own being with a distinct disposition and personality. They live on their own terms, traipsing freely in and out of homes and businesses, through the wilds of overgrown cemeteries and along the rocky shores.
Some fend for themselves while others enjoy quality handouts and shelter offered in the colder months, and they reciprocate the relationships formed with the humans who’ve not only accepted them, but cherish them as a part of day-to-day life and the city’s collective soul.
The philosophical depth unearthed in Kedi is astounding. Istanbul is a mostly Muslim city and, in Islam, cats are revered. They are spared the harsh approach of abandonment and elimination practiced elsewhere in the world, but it’s more than a ‘live and let live’ ideology. The residents of Istanbul consider themselves lucky to have these relationships, to engage and connect on such a true and honest level with these animals which bring joy, counter loneliness, and offer lessons in life and love.
Since director Ceyda Torun left Istanbul at the age of 11, she’s never encountered another city that enjoys such an altruistic bond, but has seen globalization and development slowly creep in. It is threatening the way of life in Istanbul for human and feline residents alike, and often the cats are given the greater concern.
As one woman explains, the cats’ problems aren’t so different from those of people. You could treat the cats as problems, but if you instead choose to live together, the solutions will be found together.
Until Thu., May 25
Metro Cinema, $12