About half-way through watching the documentary Kedi (aka Nine Lives: Cats in Istanbul), a sailor man in his late-40s, a citizen of this capital of Turkey, describes the city’s love for felines which goes back centuries, by stating that some people in Istanbul believe that there is divine connection with cats to God. The belief is that cats know inherently of the existence of God and that humans are basically the middlemen on the way to the divine. And dogs? Well, dogs are so out of touch that they actually believe that humans are God.
So I have a confession to make here. It’s about cats. And my love for them. In fact, my cat Digby was probably the first love of my life. The genuine connection that I felt with this feline may still to this day be unparalleled in its purity, its affection, and in its sanctity. Yes, of course I love my wife, Steph and our two beautiful little children, and it is pure and fierce and unwavering. But, you know, if we’re talking numbers here, I’ve known Steph approximately twelve years less than I knew the Diggs. It would be unfair to make any comparison, really.
So when my friend and colleague texted me with an emphatic ‘YOU MUST SEE THIS DUDE’ this past weekend in reference to some doc called Kedi (also titled Nine Lives: Cats in Instanbul), I quickly reserved my ticket for the next day.
Make no mistake, Kedi is a glorious homage to cats. But it is a wonderful homage to humans as well. For it is through these glimpses of cats and their lives in Istanbul that we get to see humanity’s relationship to them. So, while on one hand this is certainly a documentary about cats, it is also absolutely inevitably a documentary about humans and even the human condition.
It is wonderfully shot with long aerial dreamy shots of the city breaking up the very intimate and closely shot stories of various cats (and humans!) throughout this stunning looking historical city. In fact, while I’ve not seen a lot of documentaries that were shot in Istanbul (or Turkey, for that matter) – and I’ve yet to spend any time there – I would say that Istanbul’s chamber of commerce (or the equivalent of) would be ecstatic to use this film for promotional purposes. It was already on my bucket list, but throw in the historic love for kitties – which apparently roam freely throughout the city – and I feel like I need to get there sometime in the next few years!
Having watched Kedi, I am reminded of a particularly poignant moment in my own feline-inspired experiences. It was many years ago hanging outside of a townie bar here in Portland – when their once used to be townie bars in Portland – sipping cheap beer and basking in the rare sunshine. An acquaintance and I were at a table discussing the differences between cats and dogs, as one is wont to do outside on a sunny day in P-town. The majority of the table was in strong favour of dogs over cats. This gentleman and I were on the opposite side of the argument. In my mind, what sealed the argument was when he oh-so-poetically pointed out that a cat could just sit quietly and look at a wall, meditating on it for hours – seeing all sorts of things on and beyond the wall – while a dog… well, a dog wouldn’t ever see a wall, let alone ponder its reasoning for existence. Somehow, this was all the illustration I needed. For me, a few pints in on a sunny day in Portland, it was a mic drop moment in the history of cats vs. dogs arguments.