Movie Review: Kedi
Kedi is a documentary after my own heart. A lens into the culture of Istanbul, the film embraces the “show, don’t tell” style that I find most pleasing. It has about a million cats in it as well. Also a plus.
Way back before all the Oscars hullabaloo, a trailer for Kedi, a documentary about the stray cats of Istanbul floated across my radar. After a long purr-gatory waiting for this film, it finally screened in Portland. Due to it’s reclusive release nature (the film has very limited screenings, and will not hit VOD/Blu-Ray until November), it would be quite easy to pass this film by. That would be a shame. If you like documentaries, cats, or just spending a soothing hour and a half Kedi will be catnip for your soul.
Kedi (Turkish for Cat) is the brainchild of Ceyda Torun. This directorial debut was inspired by her childhood. Until the age of eleven, she lived in Istanbul, and was fascinated by the cats that weave their way in and out of Turkish culture. Cats have been integral to Istanbul from its inception, both for companionship and as a pet-able port-city pesticide. The film follows 7 of these feral felines as well as those whose lives are intertwined with them.
Unique in all aspects
The cats in Kedi are as diverse in looks and behavior as the communities they adopt. The documentary is very scant on narration, allowing the residents of Istanbul to introduce us to their furry friends first hand. As such, each cat is used as a mirror into the people they interact with. Some see the cats as neighbors, others as resident rat catchers. Assisting the cats can be a civic duty, a spiritual journey, or a therapeutic endeavor. Many of the people in the film are gifted storytellers in their own right, and the yarns they spin are charming.
The cinematography and music in the film set each encounter up uniquely. Inner city cats are framed with frenetic jazz music and tight first person cameras. Residents of scenic vistas are represented in peaceful chorales and panoramic visuals. Wharf-side wanderers get folksy sea-shanties and a dollop of night vision coverage.
Only what you take with you
The only unifying theme is that the film is here to show, not tell. Kedi can be a charming look into the culture and evolving lifestyles of Istanbul (both the people and the cats). Or it could just be relaxing time spent with a bunch of purring cuddle machines. There is comedy, drama, and a touch of tragedy in the film, but it never forces a narrative onto you.
At a tight 80 minutes, the film doesn’t wander nearly as much as our headstrong protagonists. As such, the investment made into this film is entirely up to you. You can be as finicky as a feline with your involvement with the experience. I enjoyed this movie in the theater, but I could also see a very strong case for this being an enjoyable experience at home on a rainy day or when you’re feeling blue.
A warm saucer of milk
I came into this film looking for a low-key, soothing time. As such, my bias might be showing in the review. I also really enjoy slice of life documentaries, so your mileage may vary. Lastly, Kedi is a decidedly niche film. Despite all that, I really enjoyed this movie, and think you may as well. It is a polished production of a very unvarnished product. The contrast of the professionalism of the documentary with the unique, unpredictable nature of its subject is inviting. Also, cats.
Kedi will be playing at the Nickelodeon theater in Portland Maine for a little less than a week. It will be showing sporadically around the nation until the end of May. You can find out if there is a showing around you at the movie’s website.