Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Director: Ceyda Torun
Cast: Bülent Ütün, Mine Sogut, Elif Nursad Atalay
Screened at: Critics’ Link, NYC, 5/4/17
Opens: February 10 , 2017 in theaters. May 10, 2017 on YouTube Red
Some people are dog people and some are cat people. Much depends on both the residencies of the human beings and their psychological makeup. Those who like to be fawned over, to be treated like a god, prefer dogs. Those who admire and respect the aloofness, yet the occasional willingness of animals to be loved by people prefer cats. America, France, England and Germany are big on dogs. Turks in Istanbul have the equivalent respect and love for cats, and how could they not, considering that the animals seem to be everywhere. The felines are of various colors; ginger, black and white being their favorites. The breed like rabbits and treat their spawn as any animal would. In this gracious and lovely documentary, we find that the principal subjects do not speak; they are thankfully not the talking heads that bore us in other documentaries. But they will deign to allow people to feed them, hold them, pet them, brush them.
They are not simply tolerated but appreciated, even though they appear to outnumber the people of Istanbul. They are used as ratters, as terriers used to be employed, and we are told by some of the many human beings who have speaking roles in “Kedi” (the Turkish word for “cat”) that they were kept on ships for that purpose. But the Turkish-born director Ceyda Torun, who now lives in the U.S., shows us only a single rat, and while Alp Korfali and Charlie Wupperman do not train their lenses on what is to happen to the poor rodent, they do afford us with a variety of shots including fantastic closeups that appear to penetrate the feline soul. They might even have put cameras on the heads of some of the cats, allowing them to become assistant cinematographers.
What do these cats do for the Turks aside from conning them for food? One fellow, who cites his nervous breakdown in 2002, states that the therapy he received from the cats cured him of his depression. Another man, learning from experience perhaps, rather than books, notes that you should watch out when petting a cat lest those creatures near it react in a feral way because of jealousy.
There’s no doubt whatever that these are resourceful animals, able to lay guilt trips on human beings who may prefer to eat all that turkey and chicken themselves. So many people in Istanbul go beyond sharing their own plates by traveling about with large bags of the particular edibles that “their” cats like.
You may go away from this nature story with the thought that we in the U.S. who own cats should not be keeping them indoors. Dogs cannot tolerate sitting around in a living room if not taken out, and would tear up your apartment if you did not feel like walking them. These cats love being outdoors all the time, taking a break from climbing trees and socializing with others of their ilk by stepping into restaurants for nourishment. Who needs to remove the claws that nature gave to them and imprison them in your home when they should be let out on their own to roam for a few blocks, then return to you at the end of each day’s adventure?
The many stars of this delightful movie may be the only ones who can with punity resist the growing powers of their country’s president, as they are not the sort who would take dictation from anyone whether with two legs or four.
Unrated. 79 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
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