A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[CAT] “Kedi: A gentle meditation on the bond between humans and cats in Istanbul”

Rebecca Tucker’s review in The Globe and Mail of Kedi, a new film looking at the cats of Istanbul, has me hooked. Where is it playing locally, I wonder?

Read almost any piece of travel journalism about Istanbul, and there will be mention of the cats. The city is literally crawling with them: unquantifiable felines, prowling the streets at all hours, climbing through windows uninvited and stealing fish from street vendors. But unlike other major cities that might consider the enormous feline presence a plague or pestilence, in Istanbul, the cats are an integral part of daily life. “Being a cat in Istanbul,” a Turkish musician told The Wall Street Journal in 2015,” is like being a cow in India.”

Kedi, the Oscilloscope Laboratories-produced documentary getting a limited release this week, is a gentle meditation on the strange symbiosis that exists between humans and cats throughout the Turkish city. Over the course of 80 minutes, the film – through a combination of interviews with locals, quiet shots of city life and scenes of cats in action (climbing to the top of local churches, say, or protecting a brood of kittens) – comes close to painting a complete picture of a city in which animals known for their autonomy and independent spirit have basically persuaded an entire population of people to take care of them, to gradual mutual benefit. Cats, despite what any dog people reading may suggest, do make great friends, especially if you give them a whole city’s worth of space.

There are seven cats who get almost exactly 15 minutes of fame in Kedi, and each has a name, but if you blink, you’ll miss it. They’re not always front and centre – whenever the film pulls out for a great panorama of Istanbul, or focuses specifically on its human inhabitants’ daily activities, it becomes increasingly tempting to seek out the cat in the frame (and when there’s not one immediately visible, to wonder how many must be hidden from view). It’s part of Kedi’s charm that it pulls back from anthropomorphizing its feline leads too much; their individual personalities are observed, rather than prescribed, and any attempt on the part of humans to quantify and articulate their preferred cat’s charms falls sweetly short.

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Written by Randy McDonald

February 18, 2017 at 8:00 pm

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