Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ceyda Torun's delightful doc, KEDI -- Cat lovers: the movie of your life has arrived!

And not only cat lovers: Movie lovers in general might just might want to stick this new documentary on their must-see list. No film I've viewed so far has made me want to visit the country of Turkey (along with its city of Istanbul) more than this one. The reasons are three-fold: those titular cats, of course (I'm told that Kedi means cat in Turkish); the people we meet who care for those cats (thoughtful, humane, and with plenty of smart stuff to tell us); and finally this: Though little is overtly made of religion in the film -- save one sweet anecdote about the Muslim faith, Christianity and burials with crosses -- you come away from Kedi with the notion that Muslim-must-equal-terrorism pushed about as far back in your brain as possible. These days in particular, that is no small achievement.

The film's director, Ceyda Torun (shown at left), grew up in Istanbul till she reached eleven years, with the city's cats her constant companions. TrustMovies did not know this about Istanbul: Hundreds of thousands of cats roam the city freely, just as the species has done for thousands of years, wandering in and out of people's home and lives, and making (or so the movie posits) those lives infinitely richer.

KEDI lets us into the world of some of those cats (quite a diverse bunch, both visually and personality-wise), along with the people who are their semi-caretakers, and whom the cats seems to have adopted -- rather than the other way around. As charming and delightful as these cats are, it is those people -- their thoughts, feelings and ideas -- that make this movie as rich as it is.

One of these folk reminds us that, while dogs may see humans as god, cats understand that we are merely the middlemen in the equation.

Another fellow, who appears to work in a bakery (maybe it's a bakery/restaurant) notes that all the tips taked in here are used to care for the cats. We watch in wonder as yet another man carries around his plastic bag full of food that he offers the felines, while explaining why and how the cats have saved his life.

As "modernity" encroaches and high-rises replace whole neighborhoods, the cats' habitat diminishes. Torun and her cast/cats and crew gives us some wonderful aerial views of the city (the cinematography is by Alp Korfali and Charlie Wupperman), as well as an up-close-and-personal look into homes and offices and various cat quarters around the town.

No mention is made of "animal control." Perhaps there simply is none. We hear reference only once to an animal being "fixed," If the cat population continues to grow, even as its habitat diminishes, something will surely have to be done. Meanwhile, we get quite a dose of a culture very different from our own -- different from all of Europe and even that of other Muslim countries.

Turkey has long endeavored to be a secular, rather than a religious, state, though this may be changing. Fundamentalism appears to be on the rise everywhere. The single "political" statement made in the film is a bit of stenciled graffiti shown in the background that says Erdo-gone. Yes, Turkish President Erdoğan, like Saddam Hussein in Iraq, has pushed for a secular over a religions state. But he has also, like all power-hungry dictators, left a trail of blood in his wake.

To be sure, this documentary is nothing like the whole story of Turkey, nor even of Istanbul. Yet one comes away from it most impressed with the kindness of these caretakers and the myriad ways that these cats have enriched and changed their lives.

Kedi -- from Oscilloscope Films, in Turkish with English subtitles and running a just-right 79 minutes -- opens this Friday in New York City at the new Metrograph. The following Friday, February 17, it hits the Los Angels area at Laemmle's Royal, Playhouse 7 and Town Center 5. The following weeks will see the film open all across the country. Here in South Florida it will debut on March 3 and will play the Bill Cosford Cinema and the O Cinema Wnnwood in Miami, the Living Room Theaters in Boca Raton, the Classic Gateway Theatre in Fort Lauderdale, and at the Movies of Delray and Lake Worth. To view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and  theaters, click here and then click on SCREENINGS on the task bar at top.

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