The camera in the movie Kedi (Turkish for ‘cat’) follows many cats that walk in the streets of Istanbul/Turkey from the point of view these cats have of the city. This offers a great insight in their experiences. Overall in this movie, the camerawork is very special. Istanbul as a city and the inhabitants of Istanbul – especially the cat-loving inhabitants – are shown with warmth and beauty. Just the camerawork in itself makes the movie Kedi worth a visit.
But there is more to say. The core story shows us how cats conquer the people’s hearts. The cats choose who can love and feed them. And the people warmly respond to that wish. It is wonderful to see the different characters of the cats: from a clever thief to the psychopath of the neighbourhood, from the curious cat in the bag of organic tea at the market to the gentleman who never enters the place where he gets his food, but who simply scratches the window outside whenever he is hungry. The humans adapt to the cats; not the opposite. For cat lovers, watching Kedi is heaven!
And there is more to it. For those who love psychology and/or philosophy, Kedi has a lot to offer. People explain their relationships with the cats and come up with surprising remarks about what the cats mean for them: from finding money with the help of a cat to experiencing therapy by helping the cats. And what about these comments on the world:
– ‘cats absorb your redundant energy, just like earth does’
– ‘cats know about God, dogs don’t. Dogs think that humans are God but cats know that humans are an instrument in the hand of God to feed them’.
Just two examples, there are many more.
One last thing I liked a lot and that made me think is a remark made about freedom. I have written about cats in Istanbul in 2012. The perspective that humans should not take cats inside to keep them there because in doing so, they will make cats forget how to be a cat, is new for me. This movie Kedi clearly shows what is meant with this perspective. Freedom is everything, even when it comes with disadvantages.
Maybe you don’t agree. Well, all I can say is: go see it yourself. There’s a lot more in Kedi then I can show here and you will not regret. Enjoy!
In Dutch cinemas from 24 August 2017
More info and a trailer at http://www.cinemadelicatessen.nl/film/kedi/
What is matchmaking?, people ask me. To be honest, I didn’t know myself just a couple of weeks ago but I have learned a lot by joining the trade mission to Turkey. A trade mission offers a complete program with visits to Turkish entrepreneurs, institutions, policy makers and the like. Moreover, it is possible to ask for matchmaking: if you do, a supportive staff will try to find individual entrepreneurs and officials who are willing to talk to you in a personal conversation to exchange information and business opportunities. This is called matchmaking.
I was very curious to see how this would work so I asked for matchmaking. Just a few days before we would leave for the trade mission, I got a concrete reaction to my request: 12 companies had shown interest to talk to me! This was very nice and after some emails forth and back I ended up with a schedule of 8 or 9 appointments in two days (so I missed a part of the official program, you can’t have it all). It was possible to have an interpreter but I thought it would be better to speak Turkish in case my counterpart wouldn’t talk English: having an extra person at the table just for the translation might create distance, I thought, even though my Turkish is limited.
The matchmaking would take place in our hotel in Istanbul where a complete saloon was reserved for all the business talks, see the photograph in top.
As I expected already a bit (I know Turkey) my schedule soon became a chaos. Just 2 appointments followed the planning, the rest was cancelled, put in again, changed once or twice, or the location changed > I had to rush through the terrible Istanbul traffic to go far into the Asian part, in a taxi with an angry driver who couldn’t find the place and blamed me for that (this is also very Turkish, fortunately I knew that already and didn’t take it personally – anybody who has been in a taxi in Amsterdam knows that the Dutch situation is not much better).
I used to think I was a flexible person but the matchmaking’s unique and last minute schedule changes showed me that there is more to learn in flexibility for me. I had to admit at several moments that I did feel some stress 🙂 Still, I loved the dynamics of it! And I had quite a few matches showing good opportunities that will certainly have a follow up. If you join a trade mission and they ask you if you want matchmaking: go for it! Be ready to learn and don’t forget to enjoy yourself because it can be quite an adventure…
Changes can sometimes be perceived in small signs that function as a symbol for deeper lying norms and values I said in the blog I wrote two days ago, see: http://grethevangeffen.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/istanbul-and-souvenirs-with-a-religious-component/. I found another of those small signs in the life of street cats in Istanbul.
Twenty years ago, street cats in Istanbul had a very hard time. They were very thin, always looking for food and also very scared. Meeting with mankind was not something to advice to those poor cats, because they wouldn’t be treaten well. People would rather kick them or tease them than be good to them, so they carefully stayed under cars, rocks, inside empty houses and all those hiding places that only cats can find in cities. Sometimes you’d walk into one of those skinny cats that made you think: it’s not going to survive the day of tomorrow. They were sad and lonely fighting animals with a miserable city life…
This has changed a lot. Although there are still many street cats that don’t have enough food or are even ill, you don’t see them skinny and miserable the way they were in the 20th century. They are less afraid, which means that they noticed from experience that people are not such a threat for them any more and quite a few are even affectionate, asking explicitly for human attention 🙂 And they get food in many places: Istanbul citizens are putting specific catfood in safe places for cats on the street side, thus helping the poor animals out. Or they even give them some fish, like the cat on the picture in this blog. That cat also got an improvised home which is not exceptional; on many more places, people have made homes out of boxes for the street cats. Isn’t that sweet?!
If these are signs that function as a symbol for deeper lying norms and values, what are they? I think this symbolizes great progress in wealth and education in Istanbul. Istanbul twenty years ago was very much a survival of the fittest. People were striving to take care of themselves every day and a large part of the street population was uneducated. Hundreds of thousands of people moved from the provinces to the big city of Istanbul hoping to find a better life and the city had problems to embrace them all. Street cats, harmless and defenseless, were on the lowest spot of the ladder and paid the price.
Nowadays, it is clair that the people in Istanbul have time and energy left to take care of animals like the streetcats. Being valued as a human means that one can value an animal as an animal and embrace animals in their very existence close to mankind. Once the concurrency for food and survival is gone, care can be deployed. The conclusion is that Istanbul as a whole goes better because the street cats go better!
Changes can sometimes be perceived in small signs that function as a symbol for deeper lying norms and values. One of those signs in Istanbul is the way souvenir shops deal with presents that have a religious component. When I was here twenty years ago, the presents with different religious background were thoroughly separated from each other. For example in the jewelry market, jewelry with the ‘bismallah’ sign were sold in shops with a muslem owner, golden crosses were sold in shops with a christian owner. In that time there was no mixed collection of presents with religious component to be found at the same shop; absolutely nowhere!
This is something that has really changed now. In many shops it is possible to find articles with islamic, christian and jewish meaning all together not just in the same shop, but also on the same shelve. For someone like me who missed 20 years of Istanbul development, it feels like a radical change. I asked some questions about it in one souvenir shop and the workers there kindly explained to me that they believe in and respect all the prophets. I tried to explain them how this was in the years ’70, ’80, even begin ’90 but they kept telling me how they feel about it now. They couldn’t explain history to me, why it was different before and why it changed. They had Maria and Jesus hanging in their shop next to islamic holy artefacts, see the picture above, and considered that as normal.
I cannot analyze this yet, it would need a more indept insight but as said I have seen this mixture in many shops in Istanbul city already. These are small signs for what could be a more fundamental change. My first and overall impression is that the selfconfidence of the Turks has increased a lot in daily life, and tolerance often comes with selfconfidence. Another way of looking at it could be that the Christian minorities form no more threat whatsoever to the Turks which allows a different attitude. Finally, it is also possible to look at this businesswise. The Turks were always good in customer service, eager to help customers out, create strong relationships and earn some money; maybe they have just added these new products to their buckets…
My last visit to Istanbul was over 20 years ago. Did it change?, I thought when I booked for my fifth trip to Istanbul. 20 years is a lot! My first trip to Istanbul was short after the third coup in the early eighties. I was a student for the first time in a country where the army played a big role and looking back I think I was partly unaware. There was a soldier on every corner of the road in Istanbul and there were hardly any tourists. It was a strange time and as a student, I was very excited, curious, eager to learn more about the world.
In 1990 or 1991 after quite some travelling in Turkey during the years, I decided that I was at last really fed up with the behaviour of Turkish men who wouldn’t let western women any freedom; I will never go again, I said, and focussed since then on Turkish Cyprus as one of my favorite places to be.
However, not every decision can last for a life time and now I am back, enjoying to be back really! By now I have walked around Istanbul all day in snow and wind and I found it both familiar and renewed. Familiar is the way of life, the simits and marrons and lots of other stuff one can buy in the streets, the friendliness of the people, the silent and thankful smiles when a tourist appears to speak some Turkish. Renewed is the pavement of the roads, the electricity that I remember, at that time, had open cables everywhere, quite dangerous in a busy city. The city is definitely a lot richer, the pavement of streets has been taken care of and the garbage in this intensely lived city is now none compared to my memories of the 20st century. Religion is more present in daily life than it was before, but women seem to be more free in the meantime.
A city that has existed for so many ages wouldn’t radically change: it keeps it character but it develops, that is my conclusion. And it is nice and beautiful as ever!