You only need to spend a few minutes on Facebook to acknowledge our love of felines. It’s an appreciation verging on obsession, and so should make this Ceyda Torun documentary Kedi a rather enticing endeavour. It’s a fine concept too, for we profile and explore Istanbul, it’s culture, heritage and its people – all through the eyes of one of its most curious inhabitants; the cat.
The feature moves seamlessly from cat to cat, watching them as they protect their offspring, hunt for food, and generally just lie around in the afternoon waiting for affection from the locals. The film studies the relationship between the animal kingdom and mankind, and how both have such a big impact on the other – particularly in a city where cats roam free, so rarely domesticated, nor under any ownership.
The problem is, such is the reverence for cats amongst the Turkish population, it means everybody is just saying the same things and tedium regrettably kicks in. They all love cats, and so the anecdotes are similar, each person talking about how great their local cats are, the funniest stories, and the profound ones too, but it leaves the picture devoid of any true sense of conflict. Maybe it’d be an idea to interview someone who hates the little buggers, someone we can dislike.
As one man says though, those who do not love cats do not love humans, and it’s hard to disagree with this notion. Cats do not judge, if you come home from a tough day, they await your return, showing and craving affection, absorbing all of your negativity energy. Naturally with this in mind they steal the show, but it’s still the humans who provide Kedi with its heart, and in a contemporary hate-filled modern landscape, it’s rather fulfilling to see such shows of compassion and protectiveness, seeing everyone come together, connected by their appreciation of this great animal, bringing out the paternity in many men, and the femininity of the women.
On a more negative note, the lack of palpable narrative catches up, and it’s hard not to feel that this premise would work more so as a short, unable to truly sustain the viewer’s attention for an entire feature long endeavour. It’s because there’s no real linearity or structure to cling on to, and while engaging for the most part, we do crave that formula; a beginning, middle and end. It doesn’t help either that we move so rapidly from cat to cat. We don’t truly stop and get to know any of them, and perhaps Kedi would be a better feature had it focused on just four or five of the animals, who we could follow around, get attached to their lives, their offspring and their distinctive personalities – but we move too fast to pause and reflect.
Nonetheless, Kedi carries a gentle, genial tone that makes for a warm, accessible production – though you could almost accuse Torun of cheating somewhat, because if you show us footage of kittens playing around for 80 minutes straight, you’re almost guaranteed positive reviews – and this is one of them.
Kedi is released on June 30th.