For any lover of cats, a documentary on the culture of street cats of Istanbul is a no brainer. Even if you don’t care to have a feline friend of your own, but appreciate stories about relationships between animals and humans founded on mutual respect and admiration – you’ll find pleasure in KEDi.
Being removed from political and religious context, this documentary simply follows a number of cats that have personality in spades. While I was initially curious about the political climate in Turkey at the moment, I realised that this is not that sort of film – it is a film that harkens back to a simpler truth: that animals need humans and humans need animals, even if those animals sleep on the streets. Perhaps we owe it to these animals to improve their living conditions.
There are many moments designed to instill contemplation and wonder. The camera often pans above Istanbul, showcasing the narrow streets and the ancient architecture, as well as the crowded markets and busy harbour. The cats are numerous, and each one is unique. There is Psikopat, the psychopathic cat, who is described as a jealous housewife since she doesn’t let her husband eat first or seduce other cats. Gamsiz has this way in which he sits in profile in front of any closed door and uses charm and guile to find his way inside.
Discovering the personalities of the cats as well as their sometimes temporary caregivers is where the film kicks into high gear. As indicated by many in the film, the cats know who to approach and who to stay with. The cats bring many gifts, including wallets with needed money, companionship, purpose, and litters of even cuter kittens. One could be almost forgiven for thinking that world peace is as simple as caring for a kitten together.
I’m interested in knowing how the Turkish government intends to deal with the safety of the street cats, an issue that was left unresolved by the film’s end. Encroaching industrialisation and modernization is leading to high rates of cancer and death by automobile for the stray cats. As time goes on, the film seems to indicate, their way of life – living on the streets, going to the market and/or harbour for food, etc. – will be heavily compromised and they may need to find permanent refuge indoors with all sectors of Turkish society.
There’s something to be said about having more than one home, however. Being able to stretch your claws wherever you please and know that people (if not other cats) will appreciate your company.
I remember hearing a story of a cat that had two homes, with two different families. When the cat left one family, they didn’t know where he/she was, and the same with the second family. As a result, the cat was given two different names and could experience two different households. As film-seers we can hit pause on any scene we wish, change discs and be in a new world within minutes. However, the difference between film-seers and cats is that cats do have the potential to experience true freedom.
KEDi opens at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on February 17th.