Still from the film / Courtesy of Kedi

March 29, 2017

Kedi: I Need a Cat on My Lap Right Now

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Today, we live in a nation that has become obsessed with cats. From cat videos to cat-related DIYs, cats are everywhere and have become the epitome of snarky cuddles and companionship. However, in Istanbul, Turkey, cats are much more than that. The city is teeming with cats and the residents care for some of them, but none of the cats have a master. Kedi follows seven cats’ journeys throughout the city and demonstrates that while they rely on everyone’s kindness for sustenance, they’re still beings with healing powers beyond our comprehension. Ultimately, we rely on them more than they do on us.

Kedi opens with gentle music and aerial scenes of Istanbul in which cats are already visible in the streets. Following this opening, the audience is shown scenes in which cats are sneaking into crawlspaces, sitting or nuzzling people at cafes for food. Instantly, the theatre was filled with “Awww.” Other movies, such as Secret Life of Pets and the Air Bud series, had a major cuteness factor, but could not compare to Kedi. Other movies show adorable animals in the form of fictional characters, but Kedi depicts how genuinely cute cats are, even as they wander the streets of Istanbul. The film also teaches that while these are all lovable cats, they’re a lot like us, each with a distinct personality.

As the film follows each cat around Istanbul, residents speak about either a specific cat or their personal experience with the city’s feline residents in general. The first cat introduced, Sari, has a special connection with a shopkeeper, even though Sari is not necessarily her pet. The shopkeeper says that Sari used to lounge around her shop all day until she had kittens. Since then, Sari begs and scavenges for food. She is extremely protective of her kittens, just as any mother would be with her children. Sari demonstrates that cats, just like humans, will do anything to put their family first. Films often depict animals with human-like characteristics, but these animals are fictional characters. Kedi, however, captures the way motherhood changed Sari through scenes of her begging for food every day in different places and returning to her kittens at night. Following Sari, the audience is introduced to the rest of the cats, all of which demonstrate characteristics that we can relate to. Residents of Istanbul talk about their experiences and relationships with cats that have personalities ranging from lovable and spoiled, like Gamsiz, to the “neighborhood psycho,” Psikopat.

In addition to showing that there’s a cat for every personality, Kedi connects the caring community of Istanbul to traditional beliefs and the spiritual healing powers of cats. Several of the residents explain their beliefs that cats absorb negative energy and make one feel purposeful and free. One man describes an incident in which his fishing boat was badly damaged after a storm and a cat led him to a wallet that contained the exact amount of money he needed to pay for the repairs. He goes on to say that anyone who does not believe his miraculous story “is a heathen in my book.” The stray cats of Istanbul have touched countless lives in unique ways, which Kedi demonstrates through these warm stories. As the film progressed, it continued to make the audience grow increasingly attached to the cats, to the point where I wouldn’t doubt its ability to convert dog people. Through adorable scenes and stories, Kedi compels viewers to only think of positive experiences with cats and the emotional or spiritual outcomes of these encounters.

Kedi was a warm, cuddly film from beginning to end that built a strong connection with its audience through stories, cuteness and memory. Ceyda Torun, the director and producer of Kedi, says in a letter to the audience that the film is intended to “feel like you have just had a cat snuggle up on your lap unexpectedly and purr endlessly for a good long time,” which I definitely felt. Through magical stories and beautiful cinematography, Kedi gracefully weaves a new understanding of cats beyond the one America has created, which mostly involves YouTube videos and lonely cat ladies.

Viri Garcia is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]