On Friday, February 24th at 6:30pm, cat people from miles around began to converge under the string lights of Dodge City DC‘s patio. These weren’t garden variety cat people, they were pros. It was opening night for KEDI, a film about the community cats of Istanbul and the perfect opportunity to bring the TNR, sheltering, rescue, and advocacy groups together for a booze-n-schmooze. Individuals from 16 regional groups as well as a handful of interested-yet-unaffiliated attendees got to know each other over “Moscow Mewls” (the signature drink) for a few hours before scooting to the theater. Within a couple of days, some of those new connections were already budding into life-saving collaborations.
So, why is something like this necessary? Can’t adults make it to a movie on their own?
To do our best work, community is paramount. The exchange of ideas in cat welfare is typically confined to super-niche websites that are barely on the radar, and small, local consortiums. We need to cultivate our network on a larger scale, and don’t have many opportunities to do so. Why? Because we don’t make them.
Ok, I’ll admit that it’s not quite that simple, though that’s the bottom line. We face similar challenges and limitations as our cats when it comes to getting ourselves out there. We don’t have group walks at which to meet up and socialize, nor do we have the social lubricant of a leashed animal on multiple individual outings per day. We can’t (usually) parade our cats in public with hopes that their “adopt me” vest attracts a forever-human and grants an opportunity for us to give our schpiels. The circumstances of socialization and face-to-face meetings are often based on immediate need ( “hi… can you transport/trap/take/transfer?”), which leaves little room for the unhurried conversations that advance our field.
About the film
Beyond bringing the initiated together, Kedi is an ideal means to favorably shape public opinion about feral cats. Elegant in it’s simplicity, this mercilessly quotable film offers a bounty of sincere, uncomplicated statements that masterfully capture the spiritual symbiosis of feline companionship. The humans featured are mostly men; the stereotype-crushing stories of how they came to care for cats are existentially and universally relatable.
The film leaves viewers with a conscious longing for a life as harmonious as the one that people and cats of Istanbul share. It’s an inspiring and potent film that speaks directly to one’s humanity while, without words, underlining a cultural disparity that we cat hustlers are tirelessly working to change. I personally saw people that begrudgingly went into the theater with their partners emerge with soft, contented smiles. This movie isn’t just about cats, it’s about finding ourselves through benevolent acts of kindness.
A lot of people seem to have a reservation about Kedi because they’re understandably anxious about getting emotional. As someone who’s been known to cry over beer commercials, I assure you that it’s safe for even the mot fragile empath. Death is masterfully addressed with respect and a peaceful tone; there are no tears, no disturbing language, and no graphic representations of death. The caretakers joyfully recall stories of departed cats: their spiritual philosophy provides a poetic acceptance of physical death that is portrayed as solemn without being mournful.
If you are still concerned, here’s a spoiler. The portion on mortality begins with a man in a cafe being urgently handed a limp kitten. As he hurries it to a clinic, he describes the harm that the cats sometimes cause each other over territory/mating, and suspects the kitten was a victim of it. We see the kitten being carried into the exam room, but are never told of it’s fate. Those few minutes of segue are sobering, but far from morbid. The remainder of the time spent on mortality is full of life and love.
Using Kedi for outreach, recruitment, and education
I urge all of you to organize a similar events around the film in your communities. Not only for professional cat people, but for the uninitiated as well.
This is a prime opportunity to educate the public about the feral/community cat situation in their own towns, as well as enlist their help with care, TNR, lobbying, and advocacy.
While handing out movie posters and catnip after the film on Friday, three people offered me money. At the cocktail party, the bartender did the same. They didn’t know or care who I was, but animal-lovers are always looking for ways to get involved and help. Even after running out of swag to hand out, people still came up and wanted to talk about the cats in their neighborhood. It wasn’t a few… it was an outpouring. Kedi’s glimpse at a higher standard of coexistence inspires it’s viewers, leaving them with a conscious sense of “I want that. How do I get that?“.
Everyone coming out of that theater wants to be on the humane side of the community cat issue. These are your people. Get them involved.
- Set up a table with information in the theater lobby and catch them on the way in or out, stand by the door with flyers about your group, assign designates schmoozers to stand outside and smoke with film-goers, etc.
- If you don’t have opportunities that appeal to the otherwise-interested, create something new and innovative around their skills.
- Attract adopters and potential socialization fosters by bringing a crate of TNR-trapped kittens to your event.
- Ask them what they thought of the film, and just listen. You’ll discover new colonies, win volunteers, and make meaningful dents in the war against our cats.
Now, go pluck them like the ripe fruit that they are.
How to get a screening
If Kedi is not showing in your area, reach out to Oscilloscope Laboratories. They’re on board with our mission and ready to help get you set up.
Digital and Blu Ray editions will be released in November 2017. Preorders can be made through the Kedi website.
I’d like to give a huge shout out to Nick at Oscilloscope and Angela Hopson of Dodge City DC for all the help and support in putting this together.