International Weirdness : “Kedi”

Posted: May 27, 2017 in movies
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve never been there, so I had no idea, but apparently Istanbul is a city of cats. I mean lots and lots of cats.

Which means two things : my wife would probably love it there, and there’s a heck of a documentary just waiting to be made about this whole situation.

Okay, fair enough, I probably wouldn’t have guessed the latter to be the case, either, but Turkish director Ceyda Torun knows better than I, and late in 2016 he proved it by releasing his new film Kedi, which has gotten some pretty strong (and frankly well-deserved) notices from around the world, and recently made its way to the eclectic discount house (that would be the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis) just up the street from our house, so any excuses I may have once had for giving it a pass are, obviously, long gone.

I freely admit to being a cat-lover (and owner) myself, but the set-up in Istanbul might be a bit much even for me : I mean, there are barely-domesticated felines everywhere. None of ’em are fixed, none of ’em are strictly anyone’s “property,” none of ’em are chased down and taken to the pound — they just do their thing, while people do theirs. And it all seems to work out pretty well.

Kedi follows the to’ing and fro’ing of maybe a half-dozen cats in particular, my favorite being a cuddly little fellow named Bengu, but more generally it’s about the relationship between humans and animals in an urban setting, and how the daily ritual of providing for so many of these furry friends shapes the character of a city. I mean, seriously — a pair of sisters profiled in the film cook up 20 pounds of chicken a day in order to feed some 60 neighborhood cats. And the idea of complaining about it, much less missing a day, has apparently never occurred to them.

It’s not like the cats don’t give something back, of course — we meet one who chases off mice from a restaurant, another is favorite draw at a deli where he paws at the window until he’s fed, yet another “guards” a fish market (and helps himself to a fresh meal when no one’s looking) — heck, one gentleman even talks about how taking care of so many of them helped him to rebuild his life after a nervous breakdown. It’s a remarkable state of affairs that’s taken hold, and makes for a story that’s equal parts inherently charming and weirdly fascinating.

It’s also a way of life that’s under very direct threat : Turkey’s current socio-economic and political woes are well-known, and as foreign investment pours into the country (and lines the thuggish Erdogan’s pockets), the malignant forces of gentrification are seeing entire neighborhoods leveled in order to make room for ostentatious (and most empty) high-rises with little to no concern for the people being displaced, much less the cats. Torun doesn’t beat you over the head with this sad new reality, but once the topic is broached, its hangs over the proceedings like a silent and sharp scabbard, informing all that we subsequently see with a kind of gentle-but-persistent eulogy for a social order that is slowly but surely on the way out.

For all that, though, Kedi is still a joyous celebration of the love that exists between creatures that amble about on two legs and those who get around on four. As one shop-keeper in the film says, “Cats are a bridge between man and God. Dogs think people are gods, but cats know better, and so by understanding cats, we can better know God.” If you get what he’s talking about and agree, then this is a flick you absolutely must see, the sooner the better.

  1. Ryan C. (trashfilmguru) says:

    Reblogged this on Through the Shattered Lens.

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