Friday, April 25, 2008

Review | The Other Side of Istanbul (2008)

The Other Side of Istanbul
(Documentary -- Germany)

A Deutsche Film-und Fernsehakademie Berlin, Dondu Kilic Filmproduktion production. (International sales: Deutsche Film-und Fernsehakademie Berlin, Berlin.) Produced by Anna de Paoli, Erdem Murat Celikler. Executive producers, Dondu Kilic, Hartmut Bitomsky. Directed by Dondu Kilic. Written by Andreas Hug, Kilic.

With: Mehmet Tarhan, Mustafa Cagrici.

Like much in Turkey, and Istanbul in particular, the gay scene sits uncomfortably between East and West, making it a ripe topic that receives only superficial treatment in Dondu Kilic's well-meaning but formless "The Other Side of Istanbul." Meant to explore the difficulties faced by gay men in Turkish society, docu loads up on pointless scenes offering no insight, while a larger perspective beyond the few subjects interviewed remains either elusive or unaddressed. Pic will work best for auds coming to the material for the first time, though even they'll wonder at the narrow focus.

Part of the frustration derives from the wasted opportunity: Articulate activist Mehmet Tarhan is immersed in the discourse and, along with his supportive Kurdish family, cries out for more screen time. Young Mustafa speaks of machismo and class hierarchy in the gay scene, but more on these key topics, along with the subject of honor killings, would expand docu's limited horizons. Generic shots of the city, plus an overlong wedding sequence, add nothing, while Kilic fails to provide any background on a transsexual demonstration in Bursa. Handheld lensing is standard; arrangement of scenes feels random.

Camera (color, HD), Vojtech Pokorny; editor, Kilic, Mariejosephin Schneider; music, Niclas Ramdohr. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama Documentaries), Feb. 9, 2008. Original title: Das andere Istanbul. Turkish, English, Dutch dialogue. Running time: 82 MIN.

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