Kedi (2017) – Review

A love letter to cats and Instanbul, Kedi is a charming look at the bond between humans and their feline neighbors.

Director Ceyda Torun jokingly admits that this is the perfect time to release a cat documentary, tapping into the market of cat obsessives and the unparalleled popularity of the viral video. Reportedly in 2015 there was something in excess of 2 million cat videos on YouTube, with approximately 45% of all videos being uploaded being of people’s pets, and those funny things that animals do.

In many other ways though, this is the perfect time for a documentary such as this. Regardless of the feline focus, a film with a message of tolerance, friendship, acceptance and mutual respect is one which transcends the quick laugh generated from a keyboard playing cat.

A love letter to both the director’s home town of Istanbul, and its cat inhabitants, Kedi is a gorgeous documentary; tenderly told, full of warmth, charm, joy, and surprising amounts of real human emotion. If you’re here for cute kittens and cats doing funny things then you won’t leave disappointed, but you may also find yourself surprised about the openness and purity of the human stories as well. From a down-on-his-luck man who vehemently believes he owes his change in fortunes to a cat, a woman who’s art is inspired by the cats, and a man who was brought back from the brink of a nervous breakdown due to the stray cats of his neighbourhood, Kedi packs an emotional punch that is impossible not to be charmed by.

It may seem hard to believe but there is an underlying philosophical quality to this film, which never veers into preachy territory, but much like the rest of the documentary, is delicate and tender. Far from being nuisances who beg for scraps, the cats are the portal to a deeper understanding into humanity’s relationship with nature and other living things, for many of the locals. The people depend on the cats as much as the cats depend on the people for their survival, and there is the overriding sense that neither could thrive without the other.

Kedi is beautifully shot, the city of Istanbul giving off something of an ethereal glow, and the dynamic camerawork taking you from vast aerial shots to the cats-eye-view of the streets. Great care and attention has gone into telling the cat’s stories in particular, with the cameras following them closely, leaping and striding as they do. The idea that the cats were the key into unlocking the stories of the people as the film-makers produced this documentary, is evident throughout.

The cats are of course still the star of the show, the biggest personalities being given the most time in the spotlight, complete with their own theme tunes! From the feisty female affectionately known as ‘Psycho’, to the chubby ‘Smoky’ who has a penchant for the fine cuisines of Istanbul, the cats stories are magical, charming and utterly compelling.

Kedi is sure to be a guaranteed hit for cat lovers, but there’s a lot more to this documentary than meets the eye, and you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised by it. Few films are as full of joy and genuine emotion as this one is, and it’s unique perspective is impossible not to love. As the Aristocats once sang, “everybody wants to be a cat”, and after seeing this, there’s an inclination to agree!


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