(K. Brent Tomer),
“WITHOUT the cat, Istanbul would lose a part of its soul,” explains one resident in “Kedi” (“Cat”) a charming new documentary. In Turkey’s sprawling cultural capital, cats are a feisty symbol of the city’s 16m strivers. Hundreds of thousands of strays, neither feral nor tame, live among the denizens of Istanbul. The animals are as comfortable lounging with tea drinkers at a café as they are dodging cars on traffic-choked streets.
Istanbulites often place bowls of food and water on the sidewalk in a communal effort that lets cats roam free. The money in the tip box at one restaurant goes toward the veterinary bill for sick or injured animals; at a fisherman’s stand, cats get to sample the tiny anchovies plucked from the Bosporus. People often feel duty-bound to care for the animals that hang around their home or workplace, despite the cool nonchalance of the cats themselves. “Cats know that people act as middlemen to God’s will,” says one Istanbul resident in the film. “They’re not ungrateful—they just know better.”