All graphics and visuals courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories
Frankly, Kedi [cat, in Turkish] is not in any way a cute cat—it’s a heartfelt tribute to cat and country. Filmmaker Ceyda Torun who lived in Istanbul until she was 11 years old, said that when living there, she had more cat friends than human—“a fact I’m quite proud of now”—and the film is a love letter to both cats and city.
If you’re reading this and are jumping up and down in anticipation of the film like a cat going for the plastic zip tie you left on the dresser, you get it. But unlike our “crazy cat lady” meme and the exhausting efforts of rescuers, trappers and feline advocates in general to save cats from unfriendly streets and pull them from shelters, the people of Istanbul live alongside the literal hundreds of thousands of Turkish toms and tabbies freely wandering Istanbul, caring for them as a community. Cats, say Torun and fellow producer and cinematographer Charlie Wuppermann, have been revered for thousands of years and are part of Turkish culture and folklore. And each time Torun revisits her homeland, she says that she sees changes everywhere—except for the cats.
“They were the one constant element, becoming synonymous with the city itself and ultimately, embodying its soul,” she said.
The filming of Kedi was a labor of love, with emphasis on both words. Torun and Wuppermann set off to Istanbul to not simply film the cats but to put their stories together into a story of how they’re intrinsic to the soul of the city. They interviewed people who knew neighborhood cats as individuals—“who’s the alpha, who’s fathered by whom, which cat steals from the fishmonger, which has a habit of breaking into the neighbor’s house.” They followed felines everywhere they went—into alleys, stores, basements—and even flew drones over rooftops to spy on them. Out of the footage emerged the characters who are the stars of the film: Sari, the hustler; Duman, the gentlemanly bon vivant: Bengu, the tiger mama; Aslan Parçasi, the hunter; Gamsiz, the street boss; Deniz, the troublemaker; and Psikopat, the—well, the name doesn’t leave much to translatable imagination. Love, loss, joy, loneliness and belonging somewhere are brought out in the film by the cats and interpreted and contemplated by the humans who live among them.
Street boss Gamsiz at his personal table.
When I waxed enthusiastic about the opening of the film to one of the theater’s employees, he seemed less than enthused. He was a dog person, after all. Likely, if he watches Kedi, he may have a change of heart, or at least of mind. Or maybe not. But the rest of us already converted yowling choir members will engage and enjoy cat culture and cultural exchange.
"Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods.
Cats have never forgotten this."
~ On some T-shirt somewhere
“Kedi” will be curled up at the Art Theatre starting Friday, March 3 and will run through March 16. Show times are available here.
The Art Theatre is located in Retro Row at 2025 E 4th St, Long Beach, Call (562) 438-5435 for show information.