"How Cats Make Us More Human and Show Us God’s Love"
What You Need To Know:
Inspired cinematography, excellent musical choices and a natural pace turn KEDI into one of the best, most entertaining animal documentaries since MARCH OF THE PENGUINS. KEDI carries a biblical message reminding viewers to exercise good stewardship of God’s creation, show compassion to all creation, and see God’s love in every aspect of His world. That said, there are some mixed religious elements, including references to both Islam and Christianity. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises some caution, especially for younger children.
(BB, CC, FRFR, Ro, V, S, M) Strong moral worldview overall focusing on the ideas that humans should care for the less fortunate and that all things, including animals, reflect God’s love, but with some mixed religious references, including some positive references to Christianity such as a man says Christian crosses look “impressive,” a Christian icon is shown in the background of one scene, and several shots of the exterior of the historical Christian church turned into a museum called the Hagia Sophia, mixed with false religious elements, including a reference to cats emitting “positive energy” and “absorbing” bad energy, one woman questions the existence of an afterlife, one man mentions Muslim “prayer beads,” a Muslim call to prayer heard in the background of one scene, one woman is shown in a burqa, and several women are shown wearing Islamic headscarves, plus some light Romantic elements such as a woman questioning whether “it’s better to be human” than to indulge “animal instincts” and some light anthropomorphizing the cats; no foul language; violence includes six scenes of non-graphic cat fights, a kitten is shown unresponsive after an off-screen attack that the movie implies took her life, and one person refers to a cat getting into a fight with a dog that left “a hole in his butt”; sexual content includes one reference to a cat who “spends the night” with a female cat; no nudity; no alcohol; no smoking or drugs; and, light miscellaneous elements include a dysfunctional relationship embodied in a woman who loves one of her cats more than her own grandmother.
KEDI is a Turkish documentary about how stray cats, who roam the streets of Istanbul, touch the lives of everyone they contact. Although it depicts modern Islamic culture in Istanbul and contains light Romantic elements, the movie’s Biblical message of God’s love for all His creation and a few positive portrayals of Christianity make the film more than friendly to Christian audiences. Powerful cinematography and a spirited soundtrack put the finishing touches on a movie the family can enjoy. The dialogue is in Turkish with English subtitles.
Stray cats have wandered the streets of Istanbul since the days when the city was a commercial hub, importing cargo from all over the world. Cats, kept onboard ships to fend off rats, sometimes got separated from the crew and found themselves alone in a new and strange environment. The city’s residents favored them for their affection and, later, for fending off giant rats that would crawl out of the newly built sewers. Today, according to the BBC, perhaps a million strays make Istanbul their home.
KEDI focuses on 15 characters, a mix of well-kept strays and their human caretakers. The director, Ceyda Torun, moves between testimonies of humans about the strays they love, which sometimes fall into the fallacy of attributing human elements to the cats. She includes descriptions of how caring for the cats changed people’s lives for the better. In their own way, the cats teach the humans that God expresses His love to human through everything, even the animal world. The movie also promotes the idea that humans should care for God’s creation, including urban alley cats. It also teaches that compassion should begin with animals but then extend to the whole human race.
Some of the movie’s stories are uplifting, even life-changing. One of the people shares how he recovered from a nervous breakdown by feeding the neighborhood strays, who brought joy back to his life. Another person shares a story of an apparent miracle – a “Godsend,” he calls it – involving a cat and needed money. A sailor says that “God brings us closer to Him in different ways. For me, it was these animals.” Their affection, he says, made him feel like “I was worthy of His love.”
Any documentary about cats, including one set in Istanbul, runs two risks. It could either devolve into an extended YouTube video or become the dullest special in the history of public broadcasting. KEDI walks that line expertly, creating a perfect mix of human and animal stories, that are not artificially sweet and not merely a collection of droning experts. It simply lets the people tell their stories in their own words. In that way, it is less educational but more personal than MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, one of MOVIEGUIDE®’s favorite documentaries.
In any documentary about animals who cannot speak, cinematography is key. KEDI excels at this. Each wordless scene of cats perfectly illustrates the last bit of human dialogue. Scenes of a cat who lives near a business are interspersed with faux CCTV footage. After a kitten is attacked, the next scene of cats playing and fighting in a graveyard implies the kitten’s fate more effectively than directly filming it.
The movie’s shortcomings are few. For instance, a woman questions life after death and places animals above people, all in one sentence. “If there is an afterlife, I want to meet her again, not my grandmother,” she says. The movie also contains some light Romantic elements. For example, a female painter suggests people enhance their “animal instincts … a power you can feel within yourself of a wild creature.” However, she questions whether “it’s better to be human” than to indulge “animal instincts.” Other scenes include some light anthropomorphizing of the cats.
Of course, any documentary set in Istanbul carries its own set of issues, as well. Muslim dress is shown, and a Muslim call to prayer can be heard in the background. One of the cats is named “Osman Pasha.” That is the name of several important figures in Turkish history, including the Muslim field marshal decorated for fighting Russian Orthodox Christians on behalf of the Ottoman Empire in 1877. This may confuse or normalize Islamic practices for young viewers. That alone may require discussions with some younger viewers.
The documentary also shows the power of film, as one man relates that, as children, he and his brother placed crosses over the graves of their deceased cats after seeing the practice in THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY. “We thought they looked impressive,” he says. ”We are not Christian, but they look cool in movies.” This short scene reminds us of how movie images, whether in a Hollywood blockbuster or in a “spaghetti western” made by Italians and starring American actors, have the ability to enhance or diminish Christian and religious symbols around the world. The scene should remind filmmakers of the power they wield and the responsibility which that entails.
Surprisingly, despite the movie’s setting in a Muslim-controlled country, the movie contains a couple other references to Christianity. For example, another scene shows a Christian icon in the background, and there are several shots of the exterior of the Hagia Sophia, the famous old Christian church that eventually was converted to a museum by Turkey’s secular government in 1931.
In other scenes, however, one man mentions Muslim “prayer beads,” a Muslim call to prayer is heard in the background of one scene, one woman is shown in a Muslim burqa, and several women are shown wearing Islamic headscarves. Also, there is a reference to cats emitting “positive energy” and “absorbing” bad energy.
Despite the movie’s mixed religious and spiritual elements, though, KEDI centers on the benefits that cats give to humans as part of God’s creation, including references to God’s love. Thus, KEDI overall is an entertaining documentary with a strong morally uplifting worldview that will leave viewers smiling. That said, the mixed religious elements warrant some caution, especially for younger children.