Kedi Documentary

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Kedi

Where You Can Stream It: YouTube Premium and Kanopy and (all you need is a library card)

The Pitch: Hundreds of thousands of cats roam the metropolis of Istanbul freely. For thousands of years they’ve wandered in and out of people’s lives, becoming an essential part of the communities that make the city so rich. Claiming no owners, these animals live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame – and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to the people, allowing them to reflect on their lives in ways nothing else could.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Since we’re probably not going to be traveling anywhere for the next few months, you might get some reprieve from living vicariously through the lens of Kedi, as it shines a light on Istanbul, Turkey. Not only is the city gorgeous in its own right, but it has a bonus for cat lovers out there. Istanbul is home to thousands of stray cats that roam the city. Everywhere you go, there are stray cats. They hang out outside delis, lay on top of warm car hoods, sit on piers longing for fish, and really just lay wherever the hell they want to, even (and sometimes especially) if it’s in someone’s way. They’re cats! And I love them!

Kedi shows off dozens of cats living in Istanbul, but it especially focuses on seven of them, named Sari, Duman, Bengü, Aslan Parçasi, Gamsiz, Psikopat, and Deniz. You’ll marvel at the wonderful footage that director Ceyda Torun captured by using a special rig that allowed she and her crew to shoot at the cats-eye level of the streets. You’ll follow them as they stalk for food from the public streets to nearby piers to the private residences they are welcomed to.

Aside from watching these adorable felines live their best life, it’s equally as lovely to get insight from the people who live among this cat kingdom. Kedi doesn’t bring in cat experts or veterinarians or anything like that. Instead, it relies on the perspective of real people, like a restaurant owner who lets one of the cats hang out because it helps keep mice out of his establishment. Another man talks about how a particular cat doesn’t like to be pet in a gentle way. This cat wants rough, massage-like pets, and it sends her over the moon.

Plenty of sweet and hungry cats swarm around a woman who takes time to cook fresh chicken and walks around the city to provide food to the stray cats. It appears to be therapeutic for her, as the cats bring her joy that helps squash pain that she holds within. Another stops by a woman’s apartment every day by climbing a tree to her window, coming in for some food and affection, and then heading out for the rest of her day.

But not all the cats are so nice. There’s one cat branded as “the neighborhood psychopath” who just lashes out at people who get too close to a cafe. She’s not even nice to other cats, opting to push her male companion out of the way when it’s time to eat. She won’t have any other cats trying to hook up with her cat-man either, and she’s not shy about taking swipes and hissing away at them. She’s mean, but I still love her from across the world.

Kedi can be a little bittersweet as you start to see that Istanbul’s modernization and building of high-rise apartments is starting to affect the cat population, giving them fewer places to freely roam and soak up the sun. Plus, the sheer number of cats can be overwhelming, and not all are so lucky when it comes to survival. But even so, this is a heart-warming glimpse at a kingdom of cats that is fascinating to behold from their perspective. It would make for a great double feature with the forthcoming SXSW-selected documentary We Don’t Deserve Dogs, which you can read more about right here.

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