We had the privilege to chat with the director of a truly unique and visually breathtaking new cat documentary called ‘KEDi’. This film takes place in the ancient city of Istanbul and offers a perspective seen through the eyes of the most mysterious and beloved animal we humans have ever known, the Cat. >^..^<
Hundreds of thousands of cats roam the metropolis of Istanbul freely. For thousands of years they’ve wandered in and out of people’s lives, becoming an essential part of the communities that make the city so rich. Claiming no owners, these animals live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame – and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to the people, allowing them to reflect on their lives in ways nothing else could.
Today Istanbul has grown to a population of almost 20 million, its city limits constantly expanding. Besides this enormous mass of people, there has been another creature native to the city for thousands of years: street cats. With backgrounds as varied as their human counterparts, street cats experience the city in ways totally unknown to people. For them, the city might as well be called, Catstanbul.
“In Istanbul, the cat is more than just a cat. The cat embodies the indescribable chaos, the culture, and the uniqueness that is the essence of Istanbul.” ~ Y. Barlas
Director Ceyda Torun and cinematographer Charlie Wuppermann traveled to Istanbul to gather footage of the cats themselves, not knowing if it was possible to capture the essence of what it means to be a cat in Istanbul. Along with local researchers, they gathered stories and searched for people who seemed to have extensive knowledge of the street cats of their neighborhood; who’s the alpha, who’s fathered by whom, which cat steals from the fishmonger, which has a habit of breaking into the neighbors house.
In an effort to get as close to the cats as possible, the filmmakers designed and experimented with various ‘cat-cameras,’ followed the cats into dark alleys and deserted basements, flewdrones over the rooftops, and pretty much stalked them in order to capture cinematic visuals like over-the-shoulder shots as the cats navigated the city streets. It was dedicated work, returning to shoot the same cats day in and day out which resulted in capturing their unique characters and interaction with their communities.
After two months of shooting, they began to craft each cat’s life, striving to capture their uniqueness by allowing the cats to narrate their own stories. The cast comprises 7 unique cats and we see them make their way through their respective neighborhoods.
So without further ado, let’s meet the cast or as we prefer to call them…”The Meowgnificent Seven”:
Sarı is a yellow tabby who lives at the base of Galata Tower, one of the oldest and best known landmarks in the city. She’s a hustler. She moves with a clear mission: gotta eat, gotta drink, gotta get food. She begs, steals, forages, and gets what she needs.
Aslan Parçası lives along the Asian shore of the Bosphorus, a famous fish restaurant has a guardian. He is a long-haired, black-and-white cat who has made it his mission to fend off mice and rats, earning the gratitude of those who witness his efforts. He may not always catch his prey, but his presence keeps the rats away.
Bengü, a grey tabby, has made herself the center of many men’s love. She resides in an industrial manufacturing neighborhood, surrounded by metals, chains, and rope. She is every bit as soft and cuddly as her surroundings are hard and cold. She has won the hearts of all the workingmen in the neighborhood.
Deniz took his time getting comfortable with people but now makes up for it with plenty of cuddle time with the vendors and customers of the local organic market. He climbs the awnings, hassles the other cats, plays behind the stalls, falls asleep among boxes of tea. He is the mascot of the market, but the other cats around him are just as delightful to watch.
Psikopat is one tough cookie. A short-haired, black-and-white cat, she lives in one of the oldest parts of town, Samatya, frequently showing up at a tea house that’s tucked behind an old church. She has earned the respect of the neighborhood vendors, fishermen, and even stray dogs. She fears no one, bullies her spouse, keeps rivals out of her territory and makes even tough guys respect her. She is known as the neighborhood ‘psycho’.
Duman lives in one of the poshest neighborhoods in Istanbul and has somehow made his alliance with the people who run a very fancy delicatessen. He knows better than to march right into the shop, so he waits patiently outside, staring down the waiters until they prepare him meals – frequently of smoked meats and specialty cheeses. His signature pawing of the window to get their attention is a sight the patrons have come to expect even if they’re on serious business lunches. Though with the efforts of the restaurant’s management his previously plump grey and white figure has now leaned, he still forages the dumpsters, proving no matter how fancy a cat may get, he’s still a street cat.
Don’t be fooled by Gamsiz’s innocent little face. He’s a formidable cat who knows all his human neighbors and what foods he can sneak from whom. His short-haired, black-and-white form is mighty and he’s got mad climbing and fighting skills. There’s no tree he can’t climb, no balcony he can’t get to, no human he can’t charm and no cat he can’t take down. It helps that he lives in Cihangir, the original artists’ neighborhood,which is now a cat haven. His ‘humans’ are many but he gets special treatment by a baker and an actress who love him equally but for different reasons.
In making this film, Torun candidly admits … “In the end, I hope this film makes you feel like you just had a cat snuggle up on your lap unexpectedly, and purr fervently for a good long time, while allowing you to stroke it gently along its back; forcing you, simply because you can’t move without letting go of that softness and warmth, to think about things that you may not have given yourself time to think about in the busy life you lead, to discuss them with a group of new friends, friends from Istanbul who tell you what the city is really like.”
When first conceiving the idea, what enticed the filmmakers most was the uniqueness of how street cats are treated in Istanbul, not too dissimilar to cows in India. Compared with the more regimented approach of Europe and the US where cats who are not claimed by humans are captured and put through a system, the communal approach of the residents of Istanbul to caring for street cats while allowing them to retain their independence offered a new way to understand the culture of this city. Turns out, it offered a new way of understanding how we approach life.
“They say cats know that we’re not God… They know we’re just the middlemen.” ~ H. Karaci
Critics and internet cats agree — this cat documentary will charm its way into your heart and home as you fall in love with the cats in Istanbul.
We had the opportunity to view a DVD screener copy before public release and it was truly enchanting and visually delightful. Aptly described in Variety magazine as: “Remarkable. A splendidly graceful and quietly magical documentary!”
See for yourself in their official trailer:
Credits: All photos provided courtesy of KEDI Film
You can check out the North American and international screening dates by city on the KEDi website. Watch for it coming to a city near you!
Drop us a comment in the “Leave a Reply” section below whether you’re planning to see this film and if you do, we’d love your feedback.