Turkish filmmaker Ceyda Torun and her cinematographer Charlie Wuppermann must have the patience of saints to make this enchanting new documentary of theirs, as they stalked and trailed what seemed like thousands of cats that roam the streets of Istanbul for the best part of two months. What had originally enticed Torun, a native of the city, was that for the largely Muslim population, the uniqueness of how street cats are treated in Istanbul is in fact not too dissimilar to how cows are honored in India. Certainly what she showed was a seemingly universal love of these feline creatures from the city’s residents and a compassionate understanding and acceptance of all the cat’s rather touching eccentricities, the like of which we have never witnessed on such a large scale.
She chose to focus on seven of the most individual ones who had very distinct personalities and were decidedly the rulers of their own patch of turf. There was Sari ‘the hustler’ who resourcefully grabbed food for herself and her new litter wherever she could; Bengü ‘the lover’ (named after a famous Turkish pop singer) who so easily made his adopted family fall in love with him; Psikophat the very aptly nicknamed ‘the psycho’ who took risks literally flying through the air to get to a good source of food ; Deniz known as ‘the social butterfly’ who would flit from place to place as the mood took her ; Aslan Parçası (Turkish for Lion) very appropriately nicknamed ‘The Hunter; whilst Duman known as ‘The Gentleman’ never begged for food at the restaurant which was his adopted home, he simply tapped on the window; and then finally there free-spirited Gamsiz (Turkish for happy-go-lucky) nicknamed ‘The Player.’
They may all technically be stray street cats but it seemed like none of them lacked a white knight who fed them or just gave the occasional pat and cuddle that even the fiercely independent ones couldn’t resist. There was a lovely quote in the way of an explanation from a local ex-fisherman who devotes most of his day now feeding his own favorite gangs ‘They say cats know that we’re not God. They know we’re just the middlemen.’
What Torun and her team show is not just this lovable tribe of cats that anyone in their right mind would just want to adopt, but she also showed the residents of this vast metropolitan city to be an exceptionally caring and generous people. Plus as her camera drones soared over the city itself we could clearly see what a stunningly beautiful place Istanbul really is ……although as someone joked in the film, maybe it should be renamed as Catstanbul now.