Turkish filmmaker Ceyda Torun created this uneven but sometimes magical tribute to the cats that wander the streets of Istanbul. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

Share story

If cats can inspire YouTube videos and a Broadway musical, perhaps it’s time for the furry ones to have their own feature-length, live-action film.

The title of Ceyda Torun’s debut documentary, “Kedi,” refers to the cats of Istanbul. They’re ready for their close-ups, even if much of her movie seems slapdash.

Movie Review ★★½  

‘Kedi,’ a documentary written and directed by Ceyda Torun. 79 minutes. Not rated; suitable for general audiences. In Turkish, with English subtitles. Guild 45th, SIFF Cinema Uptown.

Cats wander in and out of frame; humans speculate on whether the local cats are ambitious or arrogant; Turkish music spills onto the soundtrack; and there’s more than one growler of a catfight.

In the background, green spaces are replaced by skyscrapers, but animal life goes on much as before. Some cats purr their approval; others seem to “start a dialogue” with people. And then there are those that seem to appreciate a tummy rub before striking a pose or hissing. Preferably both.

“They have seen empires rise and fall, and the city shrink and grow,” says one of several narrators who try to pull this material together and give it some narrative shape.

But what’s most memorable about “Kedi” are the individual, self-contained moments: the quiet grace of street scenes in which cameras operate on a cat’s-eye level; the philosophical episodes that encourage speculation about the role of feline behavior in the universe; the delightful if slightly wacky sincerity of an obsessed human who always makes room in his family for purring creatures.

For those who believe in cat worship, no explanation is necessary; for those who don’t, none is possible. A similar paradox was once used to sum up reactions to the 1940s Catholic classic “The Song of Bernadette,” but it would work just fine in this context, too.