Cats, cats, cats…they look, cute, they love to play games with us, they cook their own meals, wash our clothes and speak to us while we’re asleep, but how much do we really know about our furry friends? Arguably the greatest time-wasting gift the internet’s super-information highway brought us was non-stop, 24/7 domestic cat coverage via the classic cat video. The big screen has been slow to see the same potential, but Cedya Torun’s return to her Turkish homeland in Istanbul is a wonderful showcase for a number of humble stars who have cinematic style and attitude aplenty.
Working with her cinematographer and husband Charlie Wuppermann, Torun lets the cats tell the story; we find our friends, hang out with them, chill and that’s it; fortunately the anthropomorphic and Disney-fication of the creatures is kept to a minimum. The director says that her focus is the human rather than animal condition; that we can see ourselves more clearly through ‘our relationships with other animals – in this case, cats’.
Kedi follows a number of diverse moggies through their daily routines in the city of Istanbul, not Constantinople. Much as they do in Venice, cats seem to rule the roost, gathering and travelling in large groups and ruling the underworld with a tight fist or paw. Getting cats to appear on films is a painstaking process, since cats, particularly wild-cats, have zero interest in the bourgoise thought-process involving in creating, marketing and distrubuting their own film, but Kedi is firmly attuned to the delicate rhythms of their lazy days, and provides a rare glimpse into what cats really like to do.
This film is not an information dump or a woke doc with a fixed enviromental agenda; it’s an observational piece, refined and enigmatic as the subjects themselves. Torun doesn’t bother with any anthropomorphic analysis or talking heads, other than a few stories about how cats and people get along. One lively character sits outside a restaurant, and seems to have trained the proprietors to bring him his food at a pre-arranged signal; such delightful details make Kedi a charming, original documentary for when a story just seems like too much bother.