Street cats of Istanbul display star power in ‘Kedi’ documentary

by JAY LUSTIG

One of the stars of the movie, “Kedi.”

Attention, cat lovers! The New Jersey International Film Festival has a movie that’s going to be right up your alley.

“Kedi,” screening June 4 at 5 p.m. at Voorhees Hall at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, is a gem of a documentary about street cats in Istanbul, where they, apparently, aren’t seen as nuisances, but as a vital part of city life. Director-producer Ceyda Torum focuses on seven of the cats (all of whom have distinct personalities and unique habits) and the humans who look out for them (without owning them, per se). She often films from a cat’s eye view as they make their rounds, chasing mice, interacting with other cats, and visiting humans around town who are known to be friendly (or, at least, likely to have some spare food).

“In a way, street animals are our cultural symbol,” says one human interviewed in the documentary. “Istanbul and cats … so many cats roaming the streets of a city. They’re become a distinct trait of Istanbul.”

Though Torum doesn’t hit you over the head with it, she also makes some points about the ever-increasing crowding and industrialization of the city, and what that means to its cats — and its humans.

“Our concerns for street animals and our concerns for people are completely related to one another,” says one city resident, interviewed in the film. “If you ask me, the troubles street cats or other street animals face are not independent for the troubles we all face.”

While “Kedi” has its serious moments, though, it’s mostly about hanging out with adorable felines in picturesque settings, and watching them do unpredictable things.

And after more than a decade of YouTube, we all know how mesmerizing that can be.

“Kedi” will be shown at Voorhees Hall, #105, at 5 p.m. June 4, with proceeds going to the Scarlet Paws Animal Welfare Network. For more about this movie and other New Jersey International Film Festival offerings, visit njfilmfest.com.

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