The camera moves along the ancient streets of Istanbul, following a particularly adorable orange cat. Diners at streetside cafés hand over treats. Passersby respectfully step around her. Nearby, a clever striped fellow scales a three-story building to visit a human friend in her apartment. At an outdoor flea market across town, young and old cats alike sleep amongst the wares. The camera pans along the port and cranes up over the gorgeous Golden Horn, revealing the massive labyrinth of a city. This is Kedi, a new documentary on the street cats of Istanbul from director Ceyda Torun, and it is awe-inspiring.

We follow the seemingly ordinary lives of various cats who live throughout the sprawling Turkish metropolis on the sea. From a rather polite comrade who haunts a deli patio (but is never so rude as to go inside), a beat-up old tabby who rules her perceived turf with an iron paw, a portside puffer who keeps the mouse population under control and beyond, the brief windows into the lives of cats come together to prove one thing: Cats are beloved in Istanbul.

Through this, Kedi sneakily becomes perhaps more about the humans in the cats' lives rather than the opposite. A sailor, for instance, who once lost everything but was saved by a cat who led him to a hidden cache of money, spends his days roaming the port feeding feral kittens with a bottle. Elsewhere, a baker forms an unlikely alliance with a cat who unwittingly gives his life meaning beyond his work. In a nearby home packed to the rafters with countless strays, two women cook for and feed dozens of street cats daily.

Even those who aren't in love with these fascinating creatures will find a captivating human story here. And rather than linger on the more cutesy aspects of felines, Kedi instead proves an inspiring treatise on the enriching aspects of animals and a satisfying glimpse into the beauty of the city itself. (ADV)


+ Not just for cat lovers

- Could have been longer


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Center for Contemporary Arts,
80 min.