Saturday, August 30, 2008

Toronto 08| Süt by Semih Kaplanoglu

Country: Turkey
Year: 2008
Language: Turkish
Runtime: 102 minutes
Format: Colour/35mm

Production Company: Kaplan Film/Arizona Films
Producer: Semih Kaplanoglu
Screenplay: Semih Kaplanoglu
Production Designer: Naz Erayda
Cinematographer: Ozgur Eken
Editor: François Quiquéré
Sound: Marc Nourigat
Principal Cast: Melih Selcuk, Basak Koklukaya

International Sales Agent: The Match Factory

When a teenager learns that his mother is having an affair, he has to decide whether to base his reaction on the traditions of their patriarchal culture or on those of the recently modernized society that is emerging in Turkey.

Yusuf, a young poet, and his mother are struggling to make a living off the milk they get from their cows. Their town, like Turkey as a whole, is undergoing rapid industrialization, which is taking business away from local farmers. When his mother falls in love with the town's station master, her needs begin to awaken. Yusuf tries to ignore her burgeoning affair, but when he is drafted for military service and fails to pass his medical exam, the combined stresses become too much for him. He is pushed to make weighty decisions that will irreversibly determine the course of his relationship with his mother.

Much like Aida Begic's Snow and Mijke de Jong's Katia's Sister, both screening at this year's Festival, Süt addresses the complex effects of the rapid modernization occurring in Old Europe and western Asia. For writer-director Semih Kaplanóglu, rural life represents the last vestiges of Turkish tradition – and it is in these small, Old World villages that he has set his Yusuf trilogy, of which Süt is the second installment. Translating to “egg,” “milk” and “honey” in English, the titles of the three films are suggestive of their central concern: the changes that Kaplanóglu sees occurring in his home country. Just as production of some of the most elemental ingredients begins to adapt to the modern world, so must his characters' most fundamental mores.

Traditionally, rural women in Turkey have been overshadowed by their fathers, husbands, sons and families. Their own needs and desires have rarely been acknowledged. In Süt, Kaplanóglu filters his sweeping observations about the shift in Turkey's social customs through the painful transformation occurring between Yusuf and his mother.

Kaplanóglu's visual style has a graceful symbolism. His spare, rural landscapes and sparse dialogue mean that the merest glance or slightest drawing of breath becomes significant. It is a technique that imbues the entire film, and indeed the greater triptych, with poetic force.

Michèle Maheux

Semih Kaplanoglu was born in Izmir, Turkey, and completed cinema studies at Dokuz Eylül University in Izmir. His feature films are Away From Home (00), Angel's Fall (04), Yumurta (07) and Süt (08).

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