April 18, 2017 \ Geoff Birmingham
Kedi: Life Smiling at You

Kedi (“cat” in Turkish) is equal parts a meditation on the quirky nature of cats, the people who love them, and the city of Istanbul. Seen through the eyes of the filmmakers, the cats are full of character and are charming, living in happy co-existence with the humans who dote on them, in a city that glows with Old World charm.

A cynic might say that it’s not a true representation of things. Do all Istanbul cats looks so healthy and content? The city itself has suffered from some strife, hasn’t it? But ignoring the likelihood that the filmmakers chose to only show the happier sides of their subjects, the film is a delight.

Street cats are everywhere in Istanbul. Like the pigeons that flock to the old man in the park who scatters bread, Istanbul cats come from all directions when a caring gent makes his neighborhood rounds, dispensing food.

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Photo: my Aunt Nancy, Istanbul

Though some of the cats live in packs, there are definitely others that live more independently, carving out territories for themselves, no matter how small that might be – a neighborhood, a street, or even just a cafe with friendly humans who will feed them. The film focuses on seven of these neighborhood cats, each with its own personality, as well as the people who interact with them regularly.

Naturally, since the cats don’t speak, the interpretation of their personalities is left to their human companions, and it’s interesting to see how those interpretations are likely colored by how the human thinks. While one woman says she can read cats and understand them, another calls them aliens, impossible to communicate with.

But while it’s unclear what the motivations are of their feline friends, there’s no question that the human subjects are all good souls. They laugh at the cats’ antics. They feed and nurture orphan kittens. They rehabilitate those that are hurt or injured. They shower love on them.

Istanbul cat

Photo: another aunt, Joy, Istanbul

“A cat at your feet is life smiling at you,” says one of the humans. Or, an even more poignant observation from another human: “Everything is beautiful if you look at it with love. If you can enjoy the presence of a cat, a bird, a flower, all the world will be yours.”