Ceyda Torun knew exactly what she wanted to be the subject of her first feature film: the street cats of Istanbul, her hometown. The result? “Kedi,” a documentary about a handful of the hundreds of thousands of cats that wander the streets of the Turkish city freely.
“I grew up literally with these cats in the backyards of our apartment building,” Torun told IndieWire Editor at Large Anne Thompson in a Q&A following a showing of the film at the International Documentary Association’s annual screening series. “In my childhood 30 years ago, we didn’t have technology, we didn’t have more than TV stations, so literally these cats were my world. When we left the country and started living elsewhere from the time that I was 11, the one thing that was missing were the cats. And every time we came back to Istanbul, the city was changing, the people were changing, the politics were changing, but the cats were the same.”
The film follows seven cats in different neighborhoods of the city, along with interviews with the people who take care of them. The camera follows the felines from their point of view, which cinematographer and producer Charlie Wuppermann said took a bit of trial and error to figure out. In fact, he was almost run over several times before perfecting his strategy.
“We really wanted to [film from] the cat’s perspective, really get their POV and see the world through a wide-angle lens on the ground,” he said.
The politics of Istanbul may be fraught, but Torun said that the summer she and Wuppermann shot the film was peaceful, and that people’s love for the cats united them.
“Political things were happening that people didn’t quite understand the meaning of yet,” Torun said. “The thing that drove us to continue making the film was the fact that everyone we were talking to was genuine in their compassion and love, and they restored our faith in humanity as we were making the film.”
Besides, adorable cats are something everyone can agree on.
“I think cats are quite fantastic because they have an allure to an audience that is not of a particular age or gender or socioeconomic background,” Torun said. “So you go to the audiences for our film, and it’s 8 years old to 80 years old, men and women, all kinds of backgrounds. It’s really beautiful to see that an animal like that can unite people in joy.”
Watch videos from the Q&A below:
“Kedi” is now available on streaming services and DVD/Blu-ray.
The IDA Documentary Screening Series brings some of the year’s most acclaimed documentary films to the IDA community and members of industry guilds and organizations. Films selected for the Series receive exclusive access to an audience of tastemakers and doc lovers during the important Awards campaigning season from September through November. For more information about the series, and a complete schedule, visit IDA.