Two of the feline superheroes (below) of Kedi, a film about the cats of Istanbul by Ceyda Torun. The film was released mid-last year and even this US Oscilloscope Blu-ray which we have only just caught up with came out Stateside in November 2017.
Quite apart from the compulsive nature of its subject, Torun's movie is very much a hymn to Istanbul. Indeed, it had us drooling and wishing we could simply get the next flight back to Turkey tomorrow. When we were last there two and a bit years ago we stayed in an Airbnb in the Beyoglu district hosted by a charming young woman who also cared for her own 'Stanbuli cat, a feisty long haired black girl called Psik whom we cared for while our hostess took off for an extended photo shoot in Antulya.
We quickly discovered Psik herself was not at all a stay at home type but effectively cruised and held court on the small balcony with a glimpse of the Bosphorus with a tribe of neighborhood cats just outside the kitchen window. One of them was one eyed, another was three legged and all of them even feistier than Psik. We quickly picked up on the vibe, rather than discouraging them by not feeding them, that the opposite was true.
By the end of our stay I initially sensed this attitude of serene benevolence towards these creatures reflected one of the most sublime aspects of Islamic culture, in fact, charity. As they keep saying in the movie, “Dogs think we're god, but we're the middlemen, and the cats know this."
Indeed, it was spoken on the rare occasions we heard locals even willing to talk about daily life there under the Government of Erdogan over the last five years which had largely handed over a great deal of formerly state-based welfare and support agencies to the hands of the faithful, sparing the self-aggrandising Erdogan government the expense. I heard this story over and over, and as is always possible when travelling, one had to review many, many preconceptions one held about the many glues and social cohesions that attach to Islamic culture.
One of the very great beauties of this wonderful little film, after the cats themselves, is the portrait of the city (below), the world's most magical to me, and its denizens. Torun's film manages to unfold without a trace of documentary determinism, or intrusive commentary. One sequence shows several people conversing around an old, now vanished market area up the hill somewhat from the tourist safety of Taksim Square.
These old timers reflect sadly on the encroaching road and skyscraper development which is replacing the market gardens. While this is true of every global city these days, not least a mega burg like Istanbul with 25 million people, the reality dangerously also predicts the probable demise of the cats, who seem to have prevailed as a kind of physical manifestation of supernatural deity, as gatekeepers themselves of this immense city composed of such immense history, and the whole amazing ongoing confilct that was the twentieth century.
What do the cats foresee? If anything? What do they know?
Don't miss the picture. It was one of the first titles produced by YouTube Red (their premium service) in a step to the fore on other streaming services like Amazon.
Editor's Note: For further enthusiasm for Kedi click on the link for Fiona Mackie's earlier review on Film Alert