Dec 29, 2017
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
Everyone knows that cats own the Internet. It is a strange phenomenon. There 6.5 billion pictures and 2 million clips on YouTube. Ever since we mortals passed through the Neolithic period and evolved from hunter-gatherers and opted for a more stationary existence, we have enjoyed a comfortable relationship with felis catus because as natural predators they guarded the grain that was now stored. Mummified pets have been found in the tombs of pharaohs in Egypt. However in Medieval times felines fell into disfavor as they were superstitiously thought to be associated with witchcraft. They were mercilessly hunted and killed. Hence, the rodent population exploded. Rats carried fleas. Fleas carried the plague. Millions of people died. We learned a lesson. Sometimes worshiped, sometimes disdained both revered and reviled cats will always be with us.
There have been many films about cats from Puss in Boots to The Cat from Outer Space but the documentary, Kedi, is unique. In its sparse 80 minutes it gives us a most compassionate overview of a great city, Istanbul, and its furry inhabitants each with their own habits, routines and personalities. Thousands of cats wander the city as they apparently have for thousands of years. They are not quite domesticated but neither are they feral. Their lot lies somewhere in between. They are, in every aspect, an integral part of the city. When Obama toured Turkey his itinerary included Hagia Sofia and a visit with the site's famous cat, Gli. Locals say the animals are community building, warm and calming. Any national political turmoil is dispersed with their presence even though there are catfights. There are also cat romances. One cat does not enter an upscale deli for his handout but signals manically at the window. Another enters a second story apartment by climbing a tree. Another restaurant puss earns his keep by being a resident mouser.
The director has kept the camera at cat level so the audience can experience what the cats are experiencing. A pop Turkish soundtrack accompanies their antics. Kedi reveals portraits of the many vibrant neighborhoods in the city and although the cats are never sentimentalized, the kindness shown to them is overwhelming. Tip jars on shop counters provide funds for veterinary bills. One need not be a cat lover to enjoy this film but it will be catnip for those who have pets. And, yes, I have three whiskered companions of my own.
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