Kedi Review by Tanner Stechnij
Kedi entered the art house film scene quietly after premiering at !f Istanbul Independent Film Festival. It was Istanbul-born, New York-resident Ceyda Torun directorial debut. However, the film has taken off in the independent film market — it has made nearly $600,000 over the past four weekend and hasn’t played in more than 13 theaters stateside. These returns are very impressive for a documentary about street cats, but Kedi isn’t about just cats and serves as a peaceful distraction from our current realities.
The film examines seven stray cats as they roam through the streets of Istanbul, going about their day, but each cat has a human or two to speak on their behalves. The persons never speak of disdain or frustration towards the thousands of cats that coexist with them. Some see themselves as cat owners, others at cat caretakers and some as cat cohabitants. But, with each rumination about the cats’ personalities, the audience learns more about Istanbul, its residents and how to be a better neighbor. It is slight but provides moments of human insight among religious commentary and thoughts on the connectivity of all life.
Running a brisk 80-minutes, brevity is on Kedi’s side but a lot of the vignettes don’t have enough time to breath in order for each cat’s contradictory nature to be fully showcased. The duality of each cat is emphasized throughout. One cat was considered sophisticated but often played in the dumpster, another was harsh to the other cats but approachable by humans. Perhaps less would have been more when considering the human narration as it often took from the quirky behaviors of the cat. But, maybe Torun’s cat documentary was always supposed to be more of a reflection on the nature of the Istanbul people.
The blissful serenity of Kedi is often interrupted by an overly present, hokey score that is largely compromised of keyboard percussion. It is clearly cultural and has a point, but it takes away from the natural sounds and makes the production seem sort of cheap. It is the only part of the film that seems overwrought, but it leaves an impression when everything else is so natural and gently poetic. Yet, the impact isn’t really diminished and it all works thanks to the prowess of the feline, the beauty of Istanbul and the contagious love that the residence show towards the cats.
Kedi characterizes its feline stars as the different types of people who roam Istanbul and depicts the freedom and the individuality of the cats as something that crosses species line. It is easy to get caught up in the peaceful passivity of the of Torun vision and compare it to the turmoil in the world at large, but this largely misses the point. Kedi proves that good things and good people can exist even in a time of bad people. Even if it sometimes teeters on the line of trite, sentimental and overly-romantic, it all comes off naturally and humanistic. For cat lovers and human lovers alike, it would be harder to find a more pleasant movie to watch.