Today I saw the movie Kedi which is the Turkish word for cat.* The film is a critical favorite, and a cat lovers dream.

The premise of the film is that thousands of cats roam freely in the streets of Istanbul and have for thousands of years. The cats are as much a part of the community as the people. They don’t have owners in a traditional sense and remain free to roam, but people step in to take care of the cats, feeding them, taking them to the vet, and, perhaps most importantly, letting the cats touch their human lives.

The cats in the film each have their own personalities and their own human caretakers. With the camera placed at eye level to the cats and following them as they move through the city, you get a sense of the number of cats and the way they fit it with city life. The film is lovely to look at, with lingering shots of Istanbul, its markets, streets, and waterfront. This documentary moves way beyond typical internet cat videos in many ways, but mostly that the narrators wax philosophical about the cats and give the cats almost other worldly qualities. The humans are visibly enamored with the cats who have come into their lives. You can’t help but ooh, and aaah, laugh, and even be moved by the cats as the go about their day.

Istanbul native Ceyda Torun directed the film and on the Kedi website she writes: “I wanted to explore philosophical themes that would make an audience ponder about our relationship to cats, to nature, to each other… I hope the film succeeds in doing that but more importantly, I hope this film makes you feel like you have just had a cat snuggle up on your lap unexpectedly …forcing you, by the sheer fact that you canʼt move without letting go of that softness and warmth, into thinking about things that you may not have given yourself time to think about in the busy life you lead.”

Though I don’t own a cat (and owning one isn’t a possibility right now, thank you cat adoption supporters), the movie gave me a new perspective. One of the voice-overs said something to the effect that dogs think humans are gods, but cats know better and only cats truly know God. That’s as good an explanation as any for the way cats comport themselves in our human world.

*Kedi/Kitty cat…the grammarian in me loves when different languages have similar sounding words for the same thing = cognate

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