How to make a film about cats in Istanbul

How to make a film about cats in Istanbul


Text: Adibah Isa

Anyone who's ever been to Istanbul would gush about the capital's street cats as part of its sights. Director Ceyda Torun has captured them in her documentary Kedi — here's how she did it

1. Show a side of Istanbul the media won't show you
Born and raised in Istanbul till she was 11, Los Angeles-based Ceyda Torun wanted to show Turkey's capital beyond what was shown in tourism brochures and news headlines. In Kedi, you'll get to see enclaves such as Cihangir, an artist's neighbourhood and Samatya, one of the oldest parts of town. There are also views of the Asian shore of the Bosphorus.

2. Understand what cats mean to a religion
Torun noticed that the relationship between street cats in Istanbul and its human dwellers isn't so different to the way street cows are regarded in India — more of a blessing rather than a pest. Being predominantly Muslim, Istanbul's attitude towards cats is influenced by Islam, noting its special relationship with the prophet Muhammad.

Kedi cats
3. Get down and dirty in the streets
Cinematographer and producer Charlie Wuppermann shared that he never imagined he would be lying on the streets of Istanbul with human shoes and car tires to shoot a documentary. The filmmakers used what they called "cat-cameras" which followed the cats into alleys and basements. They also employed the use of drones to capture Istanbul's rooftops.

4. Give the cats a role of their own
Like any good story, the formation of characters make up the bulk of the drama. In Kedi, Torun painstakingly spoke to residents to determine what sort of roles each feline friend would have. Through interviews and tips from fishmongers, restaurateurs and other locals, the team managed to find out who was the alpha male of the streets, and even mapped out the family tree of some of the cats.


Kedi is showing at The Projector.