Kedi: The Cats Of Constantinople

The Cat is one of the most recognisable creatures on the planet. Almost every single culture in the world has some sort of cat presence within in it. There are few, however, that can boast the numbers of cats found in every alleyway, restaurant bin and window ledge of Istanbul.

During these troubled times, Turkey’s biggest city has not been immune to the difficulties of the world. Terrorist activities such as bombings have become more frequent over recent years and political unrest from politicians trying to tighten their grip on the Turkish population have left Istanbul struggling. But what of the struggle of the cats? Have they been affected by these issues?

Turkish-born CeydaTorum and her German partner Charlie Wuppermann decided to explore this seemingly eternal city from a feline perspective and with good reason. Istanbul has a long history of cross-cultural cat migration. Many were used on ships to keep the numbers of mice down and once docked in the Bosphorus Strait, the gateway to the east (or the west), they would make their way on shore to mingle with the native cat population.

This has resulted in many cats of different colours and countries of origin adding to the melting pot that is Istanbul. In their film Kedi, Torum and Wuppermann follow seven cats almost as if they are The Magnificent Seven. There’s “The Hustler”, “The Gentleman” and “The Psycho”. All of course with their own personality traits.

In fact, even though this is a very cat-orientated documentary, the story is a very human one. Istabulians are asked about their relationships with cats and this opens up many diverse storylines that many city dwellers (which includes more and more of us these days) can relate to.

What seems to be an issue for the cat, seems to be an issue for the people as well. Overcrowded living spaces, excess traffic and lack of green spaces are things that seem to endanger not only our quality of life, but cats’ as well. Though there have been some recent moves by the city’s council to help cat housing problems such as building cat homes, one woman observes toward the end of the film that “by solving the cats’ problems, we solve our own.”

Kedi is not a politically motivated project, but perhaps with the seemingly innocent idea of telling the story of seven cats, Torum allows people to explain their perspectives on the world through a smaller if not sharper pair of eyes, with an openness that would not have been achieved through aggressive and direct questioning on a human level. This is a film about life in a far broader sense, beyond any regime, creed or culture. It’s beyond people and instead boils things down to the simmerings of Istanbul’s current situation as a whole and the quiet stories that can easily go unnoticed but still deserve attention in ever more uncertain times.

With some incredible fly on the wall, or fly on the fur as it were, style footage, there are few, if any films out there, that present the world from all fours better than Kedi. The life of the other can be easily forgotten, but here we can be humbled by the lives of the Istanbulian cat and perhaps realise that as with many things, we are all fighting, if not the same battles, then very similar ones.

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