OP-ROB RATING: STARTER
For those that speak Turkish, you may be able to guess what Ceyda Torun’s documentary “Kedi” is about simply from the title. In the native tongue of the bustling city of Istanbul, Turkey, kedi means cat, and “Kedi” is a documentary about their influence on the historic city. Unlike any major western city, Istanbul is graced by the presence of thousands of street cats. Several residents throughout the documentary lend a bit of knowledge as to how the cats arrived: many of which came on ships when the Ottoman Empire was the trading hub of modern civilization. Now the diverse cat population has cemented itself in the identity of the city. Throughout the film “Kedi” details several different cat profiles: one is deemed a “hunter cat”, another a “psycho cat”, and so on. The cats are amusing, yet the real stars of “Kedi” are the humans that interact with them. The cat-human relationship lends itself to a greater understanding of life, happiness, and the inherent goodness in all of us.
Perhaps most amusing of the cat profiles is Duman. A middle-eastern version of Garfield that lingers outside a fancy delicatessen and eats only the finest smoked meats and cheeses. A chef in the restaurant explains that Duman will never beg at the customer’s outdoor tables, because he is a gentleman. But instead he paws at the window when he is hungry. With the exception of one cat named Alan Parçasi, who works tirelessly to rid a restaurant of mice, I found myself questioning why all these people provided for their cats. Why sacrifice for a thankless pet? “Kedi” provides a complex, and ultimately fulfilling answer to this question as the stories line up.
One of the episodes stars Bengu, a cat that lives to be caressed and smothered with attention yet shows no appreciation and will disappear at a moments notice. His owner makes a comment about cats that “they're not ungrateful they just know better”, he says, “It is said cats are aware of God’s existence. While dogs think people are God, cats don’t.” It is a fascinating observation that could only be provided by someone of deep spirituality. As the cats and their human counterparts are introduced throughout the film, it becomes clear that to have an appreciation of cats, you must share in this calm understanding of God’s existence. Since most cats act aloof as to the people that feed and house them, it is obvious why many people prefer dogs, which are loyal and usually admire their masters. To love a cat is to reach something deeper within the human spirit.
The one glaring weakness in “Kedi” is its length. At 80 minutes the film has an abundance of shots that simply meander around Istanbul following random cats. These scenes serve as unnecessary fluff, and force what should have been a 40-50 minute short film into a full-length feature. Granted, the cinematography is crisp and provides a fulsome profile of the city. The soundtrack is also delightful. However, towards the end of the film I found myself growing weary of all the cats. Despite this, the tidbits of insight on the human experience offered in “Kedi” override its overdrawn run time. While certainly not a must see, “Kedi”, like Duman, offers enough sightly leisure to make the commitment worth it.