Movie Review: Kedi

Kedi transcends its purpose as a love letter to cats and becomes a poignant, delightful, therapeutic and unexpectedly moving tale about humanity and its enduring relationship with a complex creature.

Hundreds of thousands of Turkish 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, the cats of Istanbul 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.

Cats didn’t let themselves get programmed to serve humans through domestication, yet these independent aloof creatures still remain appealing. Maybe there’s something more in these felines that have us adopting what becomes our four legged housemate rather than a pet.

At first glance, Kedi is a tribute to cats and how they’ve affected people’s lives. Make no mistake though, the people of Istanbul haven’t figured out a way to turn these weirdos into subservient pets. Instead, the humans have come to accept and revere these half-wild half-tame creatures who brought joy and a sense of purpose in return.

The movie highlights seven cats. The director is able to capture their quirks and distinct lives, such as Gamsiz’s charming way of knocking on windows and Aslan’s night time prowl to earn his keep. It must have been a huge challenge in keeping up with them and the crew certainly deserves praise for being able to capture their individuality on camera.

These mini-narratives are interspersed with shots of a bustling city – a combination of ground camerawork, aerial shots, and serene compositions. The well placed meditative musical score combined with Turkish pop songs give it a local flavor. The movie not only captures the felines who roam Istanbul but also the spirit of the city as well.

At the same time, the documentary is also able to show the relationship of these cats with humans. It’s not exactly a pet-owner relationship, rather an unconditional companionship that respect the cat’s independence. They never compromise the creature’s freedom or hate its strong sense of self in exchange for affection.

The movie made a wise choice of doing away with a narrator. Kedi lets the voices of the people whose lives intersect with cats tell their story. Despite being nomads, cats still form a bond with the people around them and become a life-affirming reflection of their lives.

The result is a poignant, delightful, therapeutic and unexpectedly moving documentary. In its tribute to the cats of Istanbul, Kedi is also able to show how these creatures can bring out the human capacity for kindness and a sense of community in its purest form. Even though they come and go as they please, people still care for them and understand the untameable side of their nature.

You don’t need to be a cat owner or Ailurophile to appreciate this documentary, unless you’ve made up your mind to dislike cats or you’re one of those illogical people who hate them because they’re not dogs. More so because it’s a meandering tale without any definitive arc that could have easily lasted twice as long. If you prefer stories about pets doing heroic feats for their owners, this documentary has no appeal.

Nonetheless, Kedi achieves what its supposed to do and surprisingly more. It’s a slice of life type of documentary that takes a look at a complex creature, their appeal to mankind, and more importantly, how it brings out the humanity in us. Cats are just like people, when you’ve earned their trust and respect, you know you’re worth it.

My Rating: 9/10

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