Monday, February 20, 2017

Ceyda Torun | Kedi (Cat)

city of cats
by Douglas Messerli

Ceyda Torun (director) Kedi (Cat) / 2016, USA 2017

On the surface, Turkish documentary Kedi (Cat), is a pretty film for cat fanciers. Focusing on 7 cats of the millions of feral cats roaming Istanbul’s streets (the filmmakers began with 40, cutting down 20 before picking out the 7 they show here), director Ceyda Torun and her cinematographer husband, Charlie Wuppermann follow these 7 as they make their way through that great city’s streets.

      Most of the cat scenes are filmed by cameras placed at cat level, so that you get a feeling of the cat’s point-of-view of their environment. Most of the cats co-exist with friendly bakers, fishmongers, restaurateurs, and local apartment dwellers. 
     One dines on left-over cutups of fish parts—that is until the gulls chase him away. Another dock-side dweller is an excellent mouser, who sees to his own survival. But most are willing to be fed by the city-dwellers they individually seek out. 
     One waiter loads up sacks of leftover food which he feeds to legions of cats as we wanders up and down a neighborhood. The fishmonger ignores his neighborhood cat’s occasional robbery of his sardines. One cat appears at the window each day of an apartment dweller, seeming to rap upon the glass to be let in and be fed, which the tenant encourages, willingly inviting the cat in and feeding her a bowl of milk and kibble, before she returns back to the street. Another cat wanders from vendor to vendor, bringing her various “gifts” back to her litter of new kittens hidden away in a drawer of an automobile shop.

      But soon, the viewer begins to perceive that this film is not so much about the cats as about all the hundreds of city-dwellers connection to the cats. Some cats love to be petted. One,  described as the terrorist the neighborhood, stalks the front of a local café, fighting off interlopers and other female cats vying for the attentions of her “husband,” yet willingly submits to rough brushings; she can’t stand gentle caresses says her textile working friend. Almost of these street cats, moreover, look remarkably fat and happy, sunning themselves for long hours on roof-tops, automobile hoods, trees, and random building ledges. It is as if, in this vast metropolis, remaking itself over to a gigantic Manhattan, the cats are a link to stability in a world of constant change.
      And, as Torun’s camera suddenly soars up, looking down these same busy streets, we are told by one cat lover that there used to be more parks and open spaces where the cats could congregate, implying that not only the cats, but the humans, as well, are losing their fresh-air spots.

     Alternating the cat voyages with this rooftop perspective of the city, Torun shifts our focus from simple pretty scenarios of these wild cats to an often breathtaking travelogue of ancient Bosphorous-port city, that given its important linking between Asia and Europe, has discovered  cat remains that are more than 3,500 years old—a cat whose broken leg was clearly attended to by a human being of the day.

      By the end of Kedi we realize that these and the thousands of other felines who choose individuals to help them survive, provide more to their human protectors than their chosen sponsors give to their lives. If nothing else, they provide objects which proclaim human love and caring.


      Bilge Ebiri, an LA Weekly critic well-acquainted with Istanbul, claims that, at one time, the city also had thousands of wild dogs, who suddenly all disappeared—obviously killed off by these same loving beings or by the authorities due to the possible dangers of the wolf-like wildness of their packs. Feral cats can be mean, but they do not generally roam in gangs. Their own singularity of living conditions and behaviors perhaps most clearly mirrors the growing isolation and loneliness of the citizens of this vast metropolis as it transforms itself into a huge fortress the likes of Dubai, at which time the city will no longer belong to the cats, nor to their human friends.

Los Angeles, February 20, 2017

1 comment:

  1. Thanks God, Istanbul is still full of cats, so is its poetry. No Dubai yet, far from it.