In the Turkish city of Istanbul they have a particular relationship with cats. Hundreds of thousands of stray cats roams the streets, alleys, cafes, restaurants, docks of the city. They have always been there and are a way of life for the citizens. As they are strays they rarely come inside unless they choose to. Meaning they don’t belong to one person, rather the entire population. And that is probably what makes them so unique and integral to Istanbul’s make up.
Despite the fact that they are not “owned” in the traditional sense the cats and kittens to have strong relationships with the humans living in Istanbul. Not seen as nuisances or pests, the cats have an important place in the lives of people. Because they live in such close proximity to humans these strays are not feral. Most love humans and to be pet by them.
Cats are not dogs. Now, that might seem like an obvious or stupid statement, but it is so very true here. They are completely different. It is said during Ceyda Torun’s documentary that cats, unlike dogs, know that humans are not God and as such, can be standoffish and not as dependant on humans. Cats remain largely a mystery to us.
Via means of cameras attached to radio controlled cars, you really get to see things from the viewpoint of the cats. Plus the cameras follow the cats into places we don’t usually get to see.
Torun’s film brings us a view of Istanbul that we don’t often get. It is not a film set in the affluent or architecturally stunning parts of the ancient city. Rather we see the dirty alleys, small local cafes and the docks. These streets are less picturesque and tougher. This is where the strays call home. We also hear of how as the city grows and modernizes that the areas that cats have lived in for years might be razed and housing complexes built. Where will the cats live then? Where will they get their food? These are questions any creature that lives on the streets has to consider.
We also get a clear picture of the people who live and work in these areas. How they feel about the cats. Many lay out water and food for the strays. While a few other are really rather attached to the cats. Other go so far as to bring the hurt and ill ones to see the vet.
While there are some sad or down moments most of the almost 80 minutes of the film is rather warm and fuzzy like the animals themselves. Not dramatic it is simply a slice of Istanbul life. It is observational rather than judgemental.