×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Kedi’

A magical and remarkable documentary about the free-roaming feline population of Istanbul.

With:
Bulent Ustun, Mine Sogut, Elif Nursad Atalay. (Turkish dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4420704/

Early in “Kedi,” Ceyda Torun’s splendidly graceful and quietly magical documentary about the multifaceted feline population of Istanbul, a human inhabitant of the city notes: “Dogs think people are God, but cats don’t. Cats know that people act as middlemen to God’s will. They’re not ungrateful. They just know better.” All of which might explain why so many of the movie’s four-legged subjects come across not as feral orphans who rely on the kindness of strangers, but rather as slumming royals who occasionally deign to interact with two-legged acolytes.

Indeed, another interviewee here swears that, after his fishing boat was damaged during a storm, a beneficent cat led him to a lost wallet containing just enough money to pay for repairs. “Whoever doesn’t believe this story,” the grateful beneficiary proclaims, “is a heathen in my book.”

Trust me: “Kedi” will make you a believer.

Torun, a Turkish-born filmmaker now based in the United States, and cinematographer Charlie Wuppermann, her partner in the production company Termite Films, take their audience on a leisurely yet purposeful journey throughout Istanbul (where Torun was raised) to examine a local phenomenon dating back to the heyday of the Ottoman Empire: Thousands of cats roam freely virtually everywhere and anywhere, peacefully co-existing with humans who learned long ago not to assume they are the masters in this situation.

Most of the felines are strays, proudly independent but more than willing to accept food and favors (and, more important, attentive petting) from the humans they choose to “adopt.” In turn, the humans — men, women, and children of all ages and backgrounds — admire and accept the autonomy of the cats. Even those who routinely feed, groom, and occasionally fret over the four-legged vagabonds who wander in and out of their lives respect the animals’ privacy — and freely admit that humans aren’t the only ones who benefit from this symbiotic relationship. “They absorb all your negative energy,” a shopkeeper says of the cats who sporadically show up at her door. “They do me good.”

Another interviewee claims that petting a cat can be as spiritually soothing as fingering prayer beads. But take care. “If you pet another cat,” he says while referencing his frequent guest, “she’ll get jealous and sulk.” Another problem to consider: As ambitious construction projects change the face of Istanbul, cats are displaced from their lairs whenever old buildings, or entire neighborhoods, are eliminated.

Cats are praised for everything from their therapeutic value to their usefulness as mousers throughout “Kedi.” But these heartfelt testimonials, delivered largely by unnamed admirers, don’t take up nearly as much screen time as footage devoted to the cats themselves. Lengthy, loving closeups alternate with remarkably fluid tracking shots as Torun and Wuppermann consider the elegant poise, casual indolence, and gritty resourcefulness of cats (and their kittens) going about their everyday lives.

The beautifully spare musical score by Kira Fontana provides the perfect accompaniment for what gradually emerges as a profoundly affecting meditation, at once dreamy and precise, on a force of nature — several forces of nature, actually, with paws and tails — surviving and thriving in an industrialized world.

Film Review: 'Kedi'

Reviewed online, Houston, Oct. 15, 2016. (In Vancouver, Houston Turkish Film Festivals.) Running time: 79 MIN.

Production: (Documentary — Turkey-U.S.) An Oscilloscope Laboratories (in U.S.) release of a Termite Films production. Producers: Ceyda Torun, Charlie Wuppermann. Executive producer: Thomas Podstawsk, Gregor Kewel. Co-producers: Ilan Arboleda, John Keith Wasson, Zeynep Boyner.

Crew: Director: Ceyda Torun. Camera (color): Charlie Wuppermann, Alp Korfali. Editor: Mo Stoebe.

With: Bulent Ustun, Mine Sogut, Elif Nursad Atalay. (Turkish dialogue)

More Film

  • Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in

    Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in Berlin Festival Film 'Sargasso Sea'

    After a sudden suicide turns a small eel-farming town upside down, an investigation unearths troubling secrets about the town’s past. Those discoveries will bring together two women trapped in solitary lives, offering each a chance to find salvation. “The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” is the third feature by Greek director Syllas Tzoumerkas. Starring frequent [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    France's Cesar Awards Leads the Way for the Oscars

    Since 2011, France’s Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma has steadfastly held its annual awards ceremony the Friday before the Academy Awards. And if launching the Césars two days before the Oscars holds a real, practical benefit — allowing those walking both red carpets time to linger over their last flutes of Champagne before [...]

  • Australian Director Gameau Challenges Audiences to

    Australian Director Gameau Challenges Audiences to Improve the Planet

    Bright-eyed Australian director Damon Gameau set out in his previous movie, “That Sugar Film” to challenge everyday thoughtlessness about the dangers of our modern lifestyle — and became profoundly sick while doing so. In his new film “2040,” which plays in Berlin’s Generation Kplus section and which he styles as a “hybrid feature documentary,” Gameau [...]

  • WGA West Logo

    Writers Guild Sends Hollywood Agents Proposed Code of Conduct

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have sent Hollywood talent agencies a proposed “Code of Conduct” with tough new restrictions on how they operate as agents for writer clients. The WGA made the disclosure Thursday night in an email to its 12,000 members, a day after announcing that it will hold a March 25 [...]

  • Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat Is

    Best Score Nominee Alexandre Desplat to Skip Oscar Ceremony

    Best score nominee Alexandre Desplat will be unable to attend Sunday’s Oscar ceremonies because of recent throat surgery, a rep for the composer confirms. The French native, already a two-time Oscar winner (for 2014’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” and 2017’s “The Shape of Water”), is nominated this year for his Japanese-flavored score for Wes Anderson’s “Isle [...]

  • Space Jam

    'Space Jam 2' Gets Summer 2021 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has set a July 16, 2021, date for its live-action/animated sports comedy “Space Jam 2,” starring LeBron James. Terence Nance, creator of the HBO show “Random Acts of Flyness,” is directing the sequel. His credits include “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty,” “Swimming in Your Skin Again,” and “Univitellin.” The movie marks James’ first [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content