The word "lovely" is one of those words that is vastly over-utilized in the world of film criticism, though it's the word that kept coming to mind as I sat down to watch the Oscilloscope feature doc Kedi, director Ceyda Torun's remarkably lovely profile of the ancient city of Istanbul, its unique people, and the thousands of cats that roam the city freely, neither feral nor household pets but more along the lines of communal kitties whose presence is an accepted part of life in Istanbul and seems to have a remarkably healing effect on all who encounter them.
From Istanbul herself, Torun lived with her family in the city until the age of eleven when her family relocated first to Jordan then to New York City. Torun's affection for her home is evident in every frame of Kedi, the Turkish word for "cat," and cinematographer Charlie Wuppermann gives the film such a rhythmic fluidity that it often feels like we've become kitty companions to this remarkable, family friendly adventure that captured the Jury Award for Best Family Film at the Sidewalk Film Festival and continues to build its buzz as awards season nears.
While humans largely serve as narrators for all that unfolds in Kedi, rest assured that they are secondary players to the cats themselves including Bengü. an affectionate tabby who is simultaneously relentlessly protective of her litter even on the busy sidewalks of Istanbul, Gamsiz, a black-and-white tom whose acrobatic feats aren't far removed from parkour, Duman, a high maintenance cat whose exploits outside a high-end deli are delightfully fun to watch, and Psikopat, a cat whose demeanor you can likely imagine from its name. There are others, of course, as Wupperman's lens captures what feels like thousands of cats as they roam the neighborhoods of Istanbul both giving and receiving affection for all who take the time to stop and pet, chat, care for, medicate, feed and otherwise serve as caregivers to these cats who have an esteemed place in the Istanbul social order.
While Kedi is centered around the cats, it doesn't take long that the film is as much about the people of Turkey and this remarkable culture as it is about the cats. The cats seemingly symbolize something special and, sadly, something not often portrayed by the western media. There's a gentleness that permeates every frame of Kedi, a gently spoken kindness that travels between these cats and the humans with which they interact.
Kedi may very well play best for those who love cats or those who love those who love cats, though the film's overwhelming human spirit and goodness really transcends that subject matter. You'd have to be a major hater of cats to not appreciate the beauty, wonder, and innocence that unfolds here and that so magnificently captures this ancient city and the people who call it home.
While the film is a tad long and may strike some as a little slow in spots, especially toward the end, Kedi is one of 2017's most heartwarming and life-affirming documentaries and one that will unquestionably lift your spirits. For more information on Kedi, visit the film's website or watch the film for yourself on Youtube Red.