Istanbul is overrun with feral cats. This is their story.

Kitties! You’ll be hard-pressed to find a documentary more aesthetically and emotionally satisfying this year than Ceyda Torun’s KEDi, about the hundreds of thousands of cats that make the streets of Istanbul their home.

The focus is on seven of them (Sari, Bengü, Aslan Parçasi, Psikopat, Deniz, Gamsiz, and Duman), the humans whose lives they impact, and how the two species have found a balance over the millennia. What remains unmentioned is how the felines of Istanbul are primarily tabbies with few all-black cats, probably due to artificial selection ­— read: superstition ­— and the black cats that are seen are presented as adversarial. KEDi is, of course, subtitled, but you could watch it captionless without knowing a lick of Turkish and still grok what the humans are saying through tone and body language; there’ve been plenty of documentaries set in the Middle East in recent years, but none have featured so many people smiling so much.

Notable in spoken language is the frequent use of the word “Allah,” which speaks to a spiritual aspect of the film that’s surprising only if you don’t like cats. As one biped puts it, “Allah brings us closer to him in different ways; for me, it was these cats. I guess I was worthy of his love.” As-salamu alaykum, kitties.

Not rated.
Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.

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