Wednesday, August 3, 2016

MIFF Session #5: KEDI

All this film had to do was show some cats. I would have copped that for one and a half hours with nary a complaint. But this is not just a film about cats. It's about an ancient city: Istanbul, once Constantinople. And it is about its people. And its cats. Oh, I said that already. Well, this film couldn't have been aimed more squarely at this worshipper of felinity and I enjoyed meeting the lot of them.

There is a status of cat in Istanbul that lies somewhere between stray and domesticated. These are the moggies we are to spend the most time with. They climb the vines and roofs of the classical city, beg at cafes, hunt in the drains, visit the homes of their many admirers, get picked on by other cats and sometimes perish because life on the street does that, too.

Here, you'll meet the fish thief, Psycho the overprotective spouse of the near identical tuxedo cat whose temptresses are warned off with violence and sonics, the market mouser, the cafe adopted by the local aristocat who claws at the window when he is peckish and gets served meals of an increasing fussiness. But you'll also meet the litters upon litters of kittens who in being saved by kindly humans can also save their benefactors who themselves know the hardship of wild life.

This wonderful documentary is a love letter to a city that stood at the centre of one empire for a millennium and its conqueror's empire for longer still. It's people are traditionally a mix of these forces and live as they can as the constant changes around them deliver challenges.

Between the city and its people are the cats, spurned or indulged, exploring gymnastically or gathering for their children. They are shown through the twinned skills of astute, muscular filmmaking and a deep knowledge of their nature. If you have ever loved a cat for its delightful and infuriating antics you will recognise everything you see here and it will oddly feel like seeing it for the first time. There is no depiction of violence to the animals (one is the victim of an attack not seen) but the sheer volume of the stray litters can only suggest that a sizeable number do not make it through.

But as Talking Heads once observed, cats prefer buildings to people and we see them luxuriating in the architecture of their beautiful city, snoozing, stalking or exploring with what one observer astutely calls their superpowers. The cats with names are listed along with the people interviewed in order of appearance in the end credits as we watch both move around a town so close to the origins of civilisation that it feels like archaeology verite. Pdrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

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