It’s the cutest film of the year. It’s literally called Kitty.
Ceyda Torun’s documentary on Istanbul’s street cat population is the most adorable thing. For a Turkish movie that originally was released on Youtube (RED, which I guess we can’t get in the UK) it pulled in quite a crowd. And, like, there were teenagers too, cool teens coming to the art cinema to watch the cat film. Even though it’s a place that is fairly good in terms of following standard theatre etiquette there were times when the unbearable joy just overtook us and everyone was squealing and cooing and awwing at how adorable these lil kitty cats are.
Film knows what you coming to it for. The cameras ain’t too invested in framing the humans of the story, we see them sure, enough to put a face to their words but then we go straight back to that cat action. It a gloriously shot flick, cinematographers Alp Korfali and Charlie Wuppermann shoot their subjects in just about every way possible, you got the long wide shots that ground them in their environment. You got the super super closeups where you can see ever hair on their little cat bodies. You go handheld sometimes for that gritty urban street cat feel, hard lives on the mean streets; and then there’s that steadicam shot ripped from The Shining where you glide along at cat level observing them go about their daily business through a sea of legs.
It takes the cats of the city seriously enough to full on make them the subjects of the flick. When it was opening I was dreading that scene we’d get later on where some city official in a suit says from behind a desk that the cats are a menace to society and must all be killed, or something. As the film went on I came to realise that scene wasn’t coming. It made me so happy.
Same, we don’t get any interviews with historians or zoologists or sociologists or anyone who’s really taking an academic look into the population. Instead we hear from the people who live with the cats, who care for them, the people who love them, accept them into their homes when they come, feed them and let them wonder. These folk do some of their own amateur philosophising about the nature of the cat, their position in the city as the forces of urbanisation are starting to spread through.
We get these drone shots of the city and can see what the folks mean, skyscrapers starting to jut up, permanent construction fixtures. What we see of the city though is as characterful and beautiful as the stars themselves. Ain’t gonna say like this is the story of the city though, cos it isn’t. There’s like one shot where we get a sight of some anti-Erdoğan political graffiti, the people here talk about changing times pressing in at the margins. The film just isn’t here for that, it’s pure escapism. Much as I’m sure there are some pretty beat-up, worn-down old toms pawing the streets they’re not centre frame here.
But even then, they almost are. There this dude who we follow, goes out every morning around his neighbourhood making sure its feline residents have something to eat. As he enters this industrial estate this swarm of kitties comes around his feet and my dude gets some food outta his bag, shares it around so they all well fed. He says he was very unwell before he started looking after them, their companionship made him better. There’s this market stall dude who knows all the cats around and when he finds one sick takes it in to the vet, they say they’ll see what they can do.
It’s heart-warming and beautiful, and is so pure all the way through. There come some moments where it feels like editor Mo Stoebe is getting a little heavy handed, pushing a bit too far to create a pristine narrative. Unnecessary reaction shots, some point of view shots which just feel alien, whenever that happens you’re just like, ‘Stop!’ Film don’t need that, it doing good enough on its own. Thankfully it only happen a handful of times.
Film do real fucking great on its own though. It should be playing to pretty packed theatres. Good job to Youtube for distributing it, hopefully it’ll soon be seen by everyone.
Kedi is currently screening in UK cinemas and is available to stream on Youtube RED