Much like the feral felines that amount to its core, “Kedi” is as pleasant and fleeting a documentary as you are likely to see in 2017, which is to say that it’s thoroughly charming and big-hearted if not particularly confrontational. As a nice tonic, it goes down easy – effectively anthropomorphizing the animals without placing them above or below their human counterparts – and as a debut, it shows confidence and restraint in equally promising measures.
Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, is home to thousands of street cat, and yet, as we are meant to see here, they are far from neglected in this environment. We spend much of the time on ground level with seven specially selected subjects as they navigate the urban landscape, fending not only for themselves but also for their offspring, and the beautifully constructed footage speaks for itself. Cinema is certainly no stranger to the cat, and this may be as close as we’ve ever been to understanding their point of view.
Of course, the primary focus – aside from the aforementioned – is the connection that the good people of the city feel between themselves and the tricky little devils which surround them, thus providing the irresistible cuteness with a welcome undertone of inspiration, optimism, perception, and what-have-you. Although the beasts aren’t bound to any master, there are those who feel a longing for them when they’re gone; one man even found solace in the animals after an intense midlife crisis.
So you see, as wild as they may at first appear to be, there’s more humanity to the cats than there is in most actual people; a familiar message which simply cannot be reinforced enough. They collectively represent a simpler, freer lifestyle that one can’t help but envy, and it’s one that the gorgeous cinematography represents in the most positively delectable manner.
While there’s no shame in a feel-good affair with little complication, there are enough glimpses of something more tragic and understated that might leave a certain kind of viewer wanting more. It’s often so slight that it almost seems to approach emptiness, and on a technical level, it’s somewhat inconsistent; as mentioned before, the photography itself is impressive, but the excess of drone B-roll and occasionally distracting visual effects are certainly less appetizing in comparison.
Ultimately it gives off the impression of the uncomfortable marriage of innovation and the unprofessional; the sign of a film with simultaneously a lot to say and not quite enough up its sleeve. Even so, where those for whom the subjects are furry friends are concerned, this is damn near essential. Reservations aside, the filmmakers (a husband and wife duo; Charlie Wuppermann and Ceyda Turon, respectively) should certainly be commended for their efforts, as even the softest breeze requires a significant amount of care and consideration. There are less productive ways to spend a mere eighty minutes, as well as less adorable company.