Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Book | Cinema in Turkey REVIEW

Cinespect REVIEW
Lost in Translation
Carlos J. Segura | Dec 08, 2010 |

What makes a film American, French, German, English or, in this case, Turkish? To answer that begs the question: what defines something (or someone) as Turkish? It’s an especially interesting curiosity in this case, particularly when you take into account how young Turkey is as a country (it was founded in 1923) and how many long standing influences stand behind it due to its Ottoman past and how much it is and has been influenced by countries in the west. Savas Arslan’s “Cinema in Turkey: A New Critical History” (336 pages; Oxford University Press, U.S.A.; $35.00) looks into what defines a film as Turkish, who gets to define a film as such and how Turkey’s production system, particularly in the golden age of its industry known as Yesilcam, operated and where it took inspiration from in terms of its production mode and its filmmaking styles.

Turkey’s film beginnings are relatively late; only sixty feature films were made before 1945 according to Arslan; this left Turkey to consume mainly imported cinema, namely American, Soviet and Western European films. However, once World War II began the number of films from these territories died down, leaving a void that is filled by the importation of Egyptian films. One should add that what makes these import practices notable is that while cinema was developing in Turkey the republican reformers—the elite responsible for shaping the identity of the country into something more modern, Westernized—almost completely ignored the cinema. No film schools or studios were opened by these folks.

Essentially, this means cinema in Turkey was up for grabs in terms of the way its identity was to be molded. And it is with Egyptian melodramas that the identity of Yesilcam, often operating under what Arslan refers to as a “melodramatic modality,” begins to take shape; the popularity of Egyptian films, and the direction of Yesilcam’s identity, were dictated by the very people the republican elite was looking to push by the wayside in terms of their influence on the identity of Turkey: the rural, lower-class filmgoer. With this groundwork laid Arslan establishes the identity of Yesilcam as often being tugged at from two opposing sides. One minute it is pro-Westernization and modernization and the next it’s not. It is because the cinema of Turkey began and evolved according to the spectators of Turkey rather than according to the dictates of the republican elite that Arslan’s thesis is especially interesting. The way the he creates links between Turkey’s history and cultural identity while interweaving these subjects with Turkey’s cinematic history and identity is easily the most interesting and compelling reason to read ”Cinema in Turkey.”

If you’re looking for more of a breezy guide to particular films, stars and directors then you may feel slightly shortchanged. To be clear and specific Arslan does touch on filmmakers, stars, and films. There is an entire chapter devoted to these subjects entitled “High Yesilcam II: Genres and Films.” However, it only accounts for 76 pages of the book. This chapter is more samples from across the board rather than an exhaustive and comprehensive list of examples it seems.

So where does Turkey, or rather Yesilcam, stand on the world stage at the moment? The chapter “Postmorterm for Yesilcam: Post-Yesilcam, or the New Cinema of Turkey” posits that some believe that Turkey is finally finding a filmic identity it can call its own, noting a film called “The Bandit” as the best example of this. Along with this possibility come films by art house or film festival directors like Nuri Bilge Ceylan or directors like Faith Akin (arguably the most famous director of Turkish origin) and Ferzan Ozpetek, which the books points out some have called Orientalists, men guilty of exploiting their roots for western audiences, at worst. At best, they are going past representing any one culture or nation, instead moving over to the realm of world cinema. This is due in large part to the fact that newer generations are becoming more secular, educated, global and interconnected with the rest of the world. Interestingly, the book points out that the new generation of Turkish filmgoers, students or young people for example, find in Yesilcam ironic or so-bad-it’s-good pleasures (not far off at all from how so many of the young see certain films here in America).

As you will note by the content and analysis made in “Cinema in Turkey”, along with it having been pointed out earlier in this piece, the book is not strictly a primer on Turkish films. It is a critical, occasionally challenging work, typical of the kind written with the academic minded reader in mind; the language does occasionally get in the way of the history and ideas Arslan propose. (Arslan is an associate professor of film and television at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul.) However, he fixes in and reiterates key words and ideas so often that you ultimately will not find yourself lost.

The final analysis that emerges from this book is of a cinematic identity that always seemed in flux until it came close to finding some kind of an idea of itself in the ‘60s and ‘70s; or at the very least it had the support of spectators that were unified by and validated these films by their attending them. However, due to the rise of television it soon lost support in the ‘80s and because of the rise of urban and educated spectators it is now forced to find a new identity. Filmic and cultural identities seem to be constantly searching for themselves in this instance.

Book | Cinema in Turkey

Cinema in Turkey | A New Critical History by Savas Arslan

ISBN13: 9780195370058
ISBN10: 0195370058
Hardback, 336 pages
Also available: Paperback

Savas Arslan is Associate Professor of Film and Television at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, Turkey. He is the coeditor of Media, Culture and Identity in Europe and the author of Melodrama (in Turkish).

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Pre-Yesilcam: Cinema in Turkey Until The Late 1940s
3. Early Yesilcam: The Advent of Yesilcam in the 1950s
4. High Yesilcam I: Industry and Dubbing
5. High Yesilcam II: Genres and Films
6. Late Yesilcam: Melting in the 1980s
7. Postmortem for Yesilcam: Post-Yesilcam, or the New Cinema of Turkey

Friday, December 03, 2010

Review | Tete de turc

Tete de turc (France)
Variety Review By JORDAN MINTZER

A Warner Bros. France release of a Aliceeleo Cinema, Aliceeleo, France 2 Cinema production, in association with La Banque Postale Image 3, Sofica EuropaCorp, with participation of Canal Plus, CineCinema, France Televisions, CNC. (International sales: Other Angle Pictures, Paris.) Produced by Patrick Godeau. Executive producer, Francois Galfre. Directed, written by Pascal Elbe.
With: Roschdy Zem, Pascal Elbe, Ronit Elkabetz, Samir Makhlouf, Simon Abkarian, Forence Thomassin, Valerie Benguigui, Monique Chaumette, Laure Marsac, Stephan Guerin-Tillie, Brigitte Catillon, Gamil Ratib, Moussa Masskri, Leo Elbe.

A fast-paced network narrative that ventures into the ever-newsworthy French suburbs, "Tete de turc" (slang for "scapegoat") scores solid notes for ambition, but doesn't quite pull itself together in a satisfying manner. Centered around an explosive incident that leaves one benevolent doctor in a coma and one teenager in hiding, thesp-cum-helmer Pascal Elbe's ("Father and Sons") wide-reaching scenario shows Gaul's immigrant populations at the mercy of roaming gangs and abusive cops, living under conditions more akin to Deadwood than to Dijon. Domestic release by Warner Bros. France should yield respectable coin, with Euro and Francophone bookings a strong possibility.

Unlike other recent banlieue films, which are either pure genre exercises ("District B13," "The Horde") or pure arthouse studies ("35 Shots of Rum," "Games of Love and Chance,"), Elbe's script situates itself between the two, using a thriller framework to tackle the harsh realities currently plaguing the outskirts of Paris, Lyons and Marseilles.

Based on a 2006 incident in which a Senegalese woman was burned alive on a bus by a band of violent teens, the action here is transplanted to France's less publicized Turkish and Armenian communities, and presents several characters linked together by an attack that occurs in the pic's opening minutes.

When physician Simon (Elbe) pays a call to a menacing housing project, his vehicle is ambushed by rock-throwing youths, including high schooler Bora (Samir Makhlouf), who launches a Molotov cocktail but then rushes to save the doc before his car explodes. As Simon rests in a coma, Bora tries to avoid exposing himself to the cops and his hot-blooded seamstress mom (Ronit Elkabetz), but he's soon beaten down by drug dealers angry that the neighborhood is now filled with roving reporters and police patrols.

Meanwhile, Simon's detective bro, Atom (Roschdy Zem), is conducting his own jaw-breaking investigation to find the culprit, but he's unaware that a local nutcase (Simon Abkarian) -- who lost his wife due to Simon's attack -- is also plotting revenge. As expected from such a dramatic structure, the various plot points eventually tie together, and somebody doesn't make it out alive.

There's a swell of different themes (social injustice, family secrets, coming-of-age struggles) presented here, and pic's major flaw is its attempt to give them all equal coverage rather than concentrating on the stronger ones. Bora's tale -- marked by lively performances from newcomer Makhlouf and Israeli actress-helmer Elkabetz ("The Seven Days") -- is an engrossing depiction of an immigrant youth's fight to save his skin and reputation while doing the right thing. But the various subplots involving Simon and Atom only hamper the overall narrative flow.

Washed-out, handheld imagery by Jean-Francois Hensgens ("District 13: Ultimatum") tends to overexpose the tense atmosphere, depicting the suburbs as a virtual no man's land where walking to school in broad daylight can be a highly treacherous affair.

French title is a play on both Bora's ethnic origins and the role he serves in the eyes of his family, friends and the larger community.

Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Jean-Francois Hensgens; editor, Luc Barnier; music, Bruno Coulais; production designer, Denis Mercier; costume designer, Jacqueline Bouchard; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Pierre Tucat, Arnaud Rolland, Daniel Sobrino; assistant director, Olivier Coutard; casting, Nicolas Ronchi. Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite Les Halles 4, Paris, April 5, 2010. (In City of Lights, City of Angels Film Festival.) Running time: 87 MIN.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Europe's LUX prize goes to When We Leave

Mavi Boncuk |

Feo Aladag’s When We Leave (Die Fremde) has won the 2010 European Parliament LUX Cinema prize worth 90,000 Euros.

The film, which is this year’s German foreign-language Oscar submission, tells the story of a Turkish woman (Sibel Kekilli) [1] trying to make a new life in Berlin after escaping an abusive husband in Istanbul. The European Parliament’s president Jerzy Buzek presented the award to Aladağ at a special ceremony today (24 Nov). She is the first female director to be shortlisted since the award began in 2007.

The award carries a cash prize of 90,000 Euros towards subtitling the film in all official EU languages, adapting the original version for visually- or hearing-impaired people and producing a 35mm print per EU Member State or for the DVD release. The LUX Prize is awarded to films that illustrate the founding values of European identity, explore cultural diversity or contribute insights to the EU integration debate.

This year’s other finalists were Filippos Tsitos’ Akadimia Platonos and Olivier Masset-Depasse’s Illégal.
[1] Sibel Kekilli (born 16 June 1980 in Heilbronn, West Germany) is a German actress of Turkish origin, who gained public attention after starring in the 2004 film Gegen die Wand (Head-On). She has twice won the highest German movie award Lola.

Apr 24, 2010
But the star of the evening was Sibel Kekilli, who won the best actress Lola for Feo Aladag's "Fremde/When We Leave." Kekilli, who won the Lola for her debut in Fatih Akin's "Head-On" (2004) had nearly vanished from the German film ...
Oct 22, 2010
The jury about Die Fremde: “This touching story about a turkish young woman (Sibel Kekilli) in Berlin is about the new neighborhoods in which we live, in the same world, at the same place, and yet not at the same time. ...
Apr 30, 2010
Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film – Sibel Kekilli as Umay in When We Leave (Die Fremde), directed and written by Feo Aladag. (Germany). Sponsored by Delta Air Lines. Winner receives two BusinessElite ticket vouchers for anywhere ...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cinematographer Baris Ozbicer talks about Kaplanoglu’s Honey

»Bal« (Honey) is the third part of the Yusuf Trilogy, which traces the origins of a soul. Like in his previous films, Semih Kaplanoglu decides to work without music to create the emotional world of a seven-year-old Yusuf (Boras Atlas, quite simply adorable) in the film. It is also full of enduring images and soundscapes – from the jingle of the bells Yusuf wears (presumably so his family can hear where he is), to the sights and sounds of the forest.

Cinematographer Baris Ozbicer recalls Johannes Vermeer with his rich colour palette perfectly matching the rustic setting, emphasised by Kaplangoglu’s slow pacing that initially renders many scenes like intricate still life. (Amber Wilkinson San Sebastian Film Festival)

Director of photographer Baris Ozbicer joined a Q&A session after screening of Hone/Bal. Festival Advisor Erju Ackman translated Q&A from and into Turkish/English.

Baris studied film both in Turkey and England. After finishing film school in Fine Arts, Film and Television Marmara University, he came to London Film School and had diploma in the Art and Technique of Filmmaking.

He worked in commercials, short films, documentaries and music videos since 1998. He also worked as a camera opertor with Sahwin Kumar, Atif Yilmaz and Gigi Rocatti. In 2004, he started to work as a director of photography: Toos up (2004), Happy New Year London (2007), Honey (2010) and Majority (2010). The films and himself as cinematographer had received many awards at major festivals such as Venice, Berlin, Istanbul, Antalya, Adana. He’s been recently nominated Best European Cinematographer.

Baris Ozbicer’s Website

Montreal Turquaze by Kadir Balci

Reviewed in Montreal By RONNIE SCHEIB
Turquaze (Belgium-Turkey)

A Kinepolis Film (in Belgium) release of a Menuet production in co-production with GU-Film. Produced by Dirk Impens. Co-producer, Gulin Ustun. Directed, written by Kadir Balci.
With: Burak Balci, Charlotte Vandermeersch, Nihat Alptug Altinkaya, Tilbe Saran, Sinan Vanden Eynde, Hilal Sonmez, Maaike Cafmeyer. (Flemish, Turkish, French dialogue)

With his luminously lensed first feature, "Turquaze," Kadir Balci joins the roster of talented helmers of Turkish descent working abroad. A pensively joyous romance with a dash of ethnic angst, the pic introduces a trio of Turkish brothers living in Belgium who redefine family dynamics after their father's death. While two of the siblings embody the opposite poles of assimilation, Balci concentrates on the middle son and his love affair with a perky Flemish blonde, charting a search for cultural equilibrium. Skedded for late September release in Belgium, "Turquaze" might shine as a modest European sleeper.

Pic has a symmetry Goldilocks could appreciate: Eldest brother Ediz (Nihat Alptug Altinkaya) reps his Turkish father's authoritarian old ways, discouraging his wife (Hilal Sonmez) from learning Flemish while he himself revives an affair with a Flemish former flame (Maaike Cafmeyer). The youngest brother, 18-year-old Bora (Sinan Vanden Eynde), is too ready to conform -- technologically addicted, and prone to whatever mischief his assorted delinquent pals dream up. Timur (the helmer's brother Borak Balci), on the other hand, strikes a perfect balance between honoring his heritage and opening his mind to his adoptive country.

Timur works as a guard in an art museum, which suits his contemplative nature well, the museum's painted landscapes recalling his grandfather's descriptions of the Turkish countryside. But he's a musician by training and inclination, and he experiences his epiphany of perfect integration when he auditions for a brass band, fulfilling his father's never-attempted dream. Despite some casual cultural insensitivity about his name ("I'll just call you Tim"), the bandleader readily grants him a tryout, during which the other members spontaneously pick up the unfamiliar melody as he plays.

In "Turquaze," music proves an infectious universal language, a notion made more than just a quaint sentiment by Bert Ostyn's dazzling original score, which incorporates everything from string quartets to Turkish marches, his track intermingling rock orchestrations and folk tunes.

This interactive harmony also reigns in Timur's relationship with Belgian girlfriend Sarah (Charlotte Vandermeersch) -- but only as long as the couple keep their relationship to themselves. Once their prejudiced, opinionated relatives intrude, discord holds sway, and the couple broods, breaks up and must cross borders and continents for the chance to reunite.

Balci's young protagonists, though perfectly capable of stupidity and shortsightedness, mostly come off as patient, caring and intelligent, displaying a level of sanity both welcome and rare in a domestic drama. It's a spirit consistent with the casual symmetry of director Balci's script and the intimacy achieved by Ruben Impens' free-flowing photography.

Camera (color, widescreen), Ruben Impens; editor, Nico Leunen; music, Bert Ostyn; production designer, Kurt Rigolle; costume designer, Tine Verbeurgt; sound (Dolby SRD), Jan Deca. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Focus on World Cinema), Aug. 30, 2010. Running time: 95 MIN.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

65 countries vie for 2010 Foreign Language Film Oscar®

“Bal” (“Honey”) is among the films from sixty-five countries, including first-time entrants Ethiopia and Greenland, have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 83rd Academy Awards®.

The 2010 submissions are:

Albania, “East, West, East,” Gjergj Xhuvani, director;
Algeria, “Hors la Loi” (“Outside the Law”), Rachid Bouchareb, director;
Argentina, “Carancho,” Pablo Trapero, director;
Austria, “La Pivellina,” Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel, directors;
Azerbaijan, “The Precinct,” Ilgar Safat, director;
Bangladesh, “Third Person Singular Number,” Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, director;
Belgium, “Illegal,” Olivier Masset-Depasse, director;
Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Circus Columbia,” Danis Tanovic, director;
Brazil, “Lula, the Son of Brazil,” Fabio Barreto, director;
Bulgaria, “Eastern Plays,” Kamen Kalev, director;
Canada, “Incendies,” Denis Villeneuve, director;
Chile, “The Life of Fish,” Matias Bize, director;
China, “Aftershock,” Feng Xiaogang, director;
Colombia, “Crab Trap,” Oscar Ruiz Navia, director;
Costa Rica, “Of Love and Other Demons,” Hilda Hidalgo, director;
Croatia, “The Blacks,” Goran Devic and Zvonimir Juric, directors;
Czech Republic, “Kawasaki’s Rose,” Jan Hrebejk, director;
Denmark, “In a Better World,” Susanne Bier, director;
Egypt, “Messages from the Sea,” Daoud Abdel Sayed, director;
Estonia, “The Temptation of St. Tony,” Veiko Ounpuu, director;
Ethiopia, “The Athlete,” Davey Frankel and Rasselas Lakew, directors;
Finland, “Steam of Life,” Joonas Berghall and Mika Hotakainen, directors;
France, “Of Gods and Men,” Xavier Beauvois, director;
Georgia, “Street Days,” Levan Koguashvili, director;
Germany, “When We Leave,” Feo Aladag, director;
Greece, “Dogtooth,” Yorgos Lanthimos, director;
Greenland, “Nuummioq,” Otto Rosing and Torben Bech, directors;
Hong Kong, “Echoes of the Rainbow,” Alex Law, director;
Hungary, “Bibliotheque Pascal,” Szabolcs Hajdu, director;
Iceland, “Mamma Gogo,” Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, director;
India, “Peepli [Live],” Anusha Rizvi, director;
Indonesia, “How Funny (Our Country Is),” Deddy Mizwar, director;
Iran, “Farewell Baghdad,” Mehdi Naderi, director;
Iraq, “Son of Babylon,” Mohamed Al-Daradji, director;
Israel, “The Human Resources Manager,” Eran Riklis, director;
Italy, “La Prima Cosa Bella” (“The First Beautiful Thing”), Paolo Virzi, director;
Japan, “Confessions,” Tetsuya Nakashima, director;
Kazakhstan, “Strayed,” Akan Satayev, director;
Korea, “A Barefoot Dream,” Tae-kyun Kim, director;
Kyrgyzstan, “The Light Thief,” Aktan Arym Kubat, director;
Latvia, “Hong Kong Confidential,” Maris Martinsons, director;
Macedonia, “Mothers,” Milcho Manchevski, director;
Mexico, “Biutiful,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director;
Netherlands, “Tirza,” Rudolf van den Berg, director;
Nicaragua, “La Yuma,” Florence Jaugey, director;
Norway, “The Angel,” Margreth Olin, director;
Peru, “Undertow” (“Contracorriente”), Javier Fuentes-Leon, director;
Philippines, “Noy,” Dondon S. Santos and Rodel Nacianceno, directors;
Poland, “All That I Love,” Jacek Borcuch, director;
Portugal, “To Die Like a Man,” Joao Pedro Rodrigues, director;
Puerto Rico, “Miente” (“Lie”), Rafael Mercado, director;
Romania, “If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle,” Florin Serban, director;
Russia, “The Edge,” Alexey Uchitel, director;
Serbia, “Besa,” Srdjan Karanovic, director;
Slovakia, “Hranica” (“The Border”), Jaroslav Vojtek, director;
Slovenia, “9:06,” Igor Sterk, director;
South Africa, “Life, above All,” Oliver Schmitz, director;
Spain, “Tambien la Lluvia” (“Even the Rain”), Iciar Bollain, director;
Sweden, “Simple Simon,” Andreas Ohman, director;
Switzerland, “La Petite Chambre,” Stephanie Chuat and Veronique Reymond, directors;
Taiwan, “Monga,” Chen-zer Niu, director;
Thailand, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” Apichatpong Weerasethakul, director;
Turkey, “Bal” (“Honey”), Semih Kaplanoglu, director;
Uruguay, “La Vida Util,” Federico Veiroj, director;
Venezuela, “Hermano,” Marcel Rasquin, director.

The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

2010 Antalya Golden Orange Awards

2010 47th Antalya Golden Orange Awards
Best Feature Film: “Çoğunluk”
Best Debut Feature Film:”Gişe Memuru” (Tolga Karaçelik)
Best Director: “Çoğunluk” Seren Yüce
Best Screenplay: “Atlıkarınca” Mert Fırat , İlksen Başarır
Best Cinematographyi: “Saç” and “Gişe Memuru” Ercan Özcan
Best Film Music: “Kar Beyaz” Mircan
Best Female Performance: “Sinyora Enrica ile İtalyan Olmak” Claudia Cardinale
Best Male Performance: “Gişe Memuru” Serkan Ercan and “Çoğunluk” Bartu Küçükçağlayan
Best Supporting Female Performance:”Kağıt” filmi ile Ayşen Grude
Best Supporting Male Performance:”Kavşak” Cengiz Bozkurt and “Saç” Rıza Akın
Best Editing: “Gölgeler ve Suretler” Aylin Zoi
Best Art Direction: “Haydi Bre” Nihat Düşko
Antalya City Jury Prize: “Kavşak”
Best Short Film: Berf (Erol Mintaş)
Best Documentary Film:”Anadolu’nun Son Göçerleri” (Yüksel Aksu)
Best Debut Documentary: “Ofsayt” and “Herkes Uyurken”
Film Writers SİYAD
NationalAward: “Sineklik”
Film Writers SİYAD International Award: “Gölgeler ve Suretler” (Derviş Zaim)
Best Male Performance International Film: Nik Jelila
Best Female Performance International Film:: Emma Suarez
Jury Award for best Documentary: “Ordu’da Bir Argonot”
Public Golden Orange Award: “Son Helva”
Documentary Jury Award:”Dönüşü Olmayan Yol”
Digital Film Academy Award: “Bisiklet”
Behlül Dal Special Jury Award: “Press” Aram Dildar and “Atlı Karınca” Zeynep Oral
Dr. Avni Tolunay Special Jury Award: “Sinyora Enrica ile İtalya Olmak” Elvan Albayrak

Çoğunluk/Majority (2010) by Seren Yüce

“Çoğunluk” (Majority), a film directed by Seren Yüce, was among the 12 films featured in this year’s Venice Film Festival’s Venice Days program. The film tells of the son of a working class family in present-day İstanbul. Starring Bartu Küçükçağlayan and Settar Tanrıöğen, Seren Yüce worked as an assistant to Özer Kiziltan on Takva: A Man’s Fear of God (04) and to Fatih Akin on The Edge of Heaven (07). The Majority (10) is his feature directorial debut.

full credits
Principal Cast: Bartu Kucukcaglayan, Settar Tanriogen, Nihal Koldas, Esme Madra
Producer: Sevil Demirci, Onder Cakar, Seren Yuce
Cinematographer: Baris Ozbicer
Editor: Mary Stephen
Sound: Mustafa Bolukbasi
Music: Gokce Akcelik
Production Designer: Ozkan Yilmaz


Mertkan leads a simple life in Istanbul until he meets Gül, a Kurdish girl from Eastern Turkey who has run away from her family. But their relationship is obstructed by Mertkan’s father Kemal, and the chauvinist culture in which Mertkan is imbued.
“Humanity’s complicated structure, which is disguised under the veil of technology, is always affected by the power of masculinity. Majority is a critique of myself and Turkish society, of which I am a member. My aim is to look at ‘us’ through a family, which is the core of society.” (Seren Yüce)

Will it be possible one day for a character of a Turkish movie to look back at his youth and get to understand his tyrannical father as did the liberated character of Padre padrone? Nowadays, we hear a great deal about the oppression suffered by women in many traditional societies, but Seren Yüce shows us an oppressed young man. The son is subdued to his father. Fear of his father proves more powerful for him than his love for an “alien” girl. Is this passive character aware of this oppression? This film makes us face a paradox: In a patriarchal society a woman may find it easier to emancipate herself than a man. (Tadeusz Sobolewski)

world sales The Match Factory
Balthasarstrasse 79-81, 50670 Cologne, Germany
Tel. +49 221 53970 90
Fax +49 221 53970910
info@matchfactory.de - festivals@matchfactory.de
Production Company: Yeni Sinemacilik

TIFF Notes
Sometimes a debut feature startles by virtue of the simple clarity of the story it tells. Such is the case with first-time feature director Seren Yüce’s The Majority, which transforms a sober account of family life into a trenchant social critique.
The film revolves around Mertkan, the shiftless scion of a middle-class family and the heir apparent to his autocratic father’s construction company. Mertkan works so hard at upholding his image as a freewheeling young man with no responsibilities that he has lost interest in pretty much everything: cruising the malls with his friends, smoking in his dad’s SUV or working for his father’s business all bore him equally. He feels no need to plumb for any meaning in life or any inkling of a professional calling.
When he meets Gül, a young woman putting herself through university by working as a waitress, Mertkan seems poised to break out of his empty routine. However, his family disapproves of his new girlfriend on the grounds of her being a minority from the Eastern city of Van; their values are too imposing for Mertkan to challenge. He is, after all, unaccustomed to doing anything that requires real effort.

While setting out along the arc of a coming-of-age narrative, The Majority builds to much more. Through Yüce’s examination of one man’s choices – or perhaps his lack thereof – the film offers an alarmingly realistic study of a stratum of Turkish society that nurtures nationalism and militarism through the seemingly innocuous relationships of parents and their children. The fact that the film is set within a liberal and modernized Istanbul makes Mertkan’s inability to shun tradition all the more ironic. The Majority emerges as a study of the inertia of private values that can co-exist with a fast-changing public sphere.

Cameron Bailey

Seren Yüce’s slow-paced, feature debut Majority is a critique of Turkey’s misogynistic culture, in which the victim of social oppression is a young man who doesn’t have the courage to get out from under his father’s thumb and be with the woman he loves (Esme Madra).

Mertkan (Bartu Küçükçağlayan, in his film debut) is a non-ambitious slacker in his early 20s who has little desire to do anything but hang out with his friends, much less work for his father’s construction company. The only person who sparks life in him is Gül (Madra), a Kurdish student who has run away from her family to attend university in Istanbul. Their relationship, however, is immediately opposed by Mertkan’s father Kemal (Settar Tanrıöğen).

The slow pace that Yüce sets in the film further conveys the endlessly oppressive setting. The story’s men are either overbearing, like Kemal, or submissive. Moreover, they control everything in the macho society but are emotionally inept for the fact that they never really have to interact with the other half of the population.

At the Q&A following the film’s official Venice Days screening, the director said the story, which he also wrote, “comes from myself and my neighbourhood and the friends I remember from when I was [the characters’] age. Unfortunately, not much has changed, the cycle continues today.” Küçükçağlayan, a theatre actor who had to tone down his performance for first film role, and Madra spoke of the nurturing, friendly atmosphere created on set by Yüce, who held few rehearsals and asked only of his actors that they be “real.”

For his part, Tanrıöğen admitted that playing Kemal was easy. “There are so many men like him in Turkey that it was easy for me to recognize the character and portray him,” said the veteran actor of his standout performance. Majority was produced for approximately €250,000 by Turkish company Yeni Sinemacilar and will be released domestically at the end of October by Özen Film. International sales are handled by The Match Factory.

Natasha Senjanovic – Cineuropa.org

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Turkish Cinema at ERA NOWE HORYZONTY 2010

The ERA NEW HORIZONS IFF is a member of FIAPF (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films) - a Paris-based regulator of international film festivals.

New Cinema of Turkey

11'e 10 kala/Pelin Esmer / Turkey, France, Germany 2009 / 110’
A Run for Money/Kaç para kaç/Reha Erdem / Turkey 1999 / 91’
Angel’s Fall /Meleğin düşüşü/Semih Kaplanoğlu / Greece, Turkey 2005 / 90’
Ara /Ümit Ünal / Turkey 2008 / 89’
Bornova Bornova/İnan Temelkuran / Turkey 2009 / 85’
Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul/Istanbul hatirasi - Köprüyü geçmek/Fatih Akin / Germany, Turkey 2005 / 90’
Distant /Uzak/Nuri Bilge Ceylan / Turkey 2002 / 110’
Dot /Nokta/Derviş Zaim / Turkey 2008 / 85’
Journey to the Sun /Günese Yolcoluk/Yeşim Ustaoğlu / Turkey, Netherlands, Germany 1999 / 104’
Kosmos /Reha Erdem / Turkey, Bulgaria 2010 / 122’
My Marlon and Brando /Gitmek: Benim Marlon ve Brandom/Hüseyin Karabey / Turkey, Netherlands, France 2008 / 92’
Nieszczęsny los/Dark Cloud/ Bahti Kara/Theron Patterson / Turkey 2009 / 92’
Oh Moon /A ay/Reha Erdem / Turkey 1988 / 100’
On Board /Gemide/Serdar Akar / Turkey 1998 / 112’
Pandora’s Box /Pandoranin kutusu/Yeşim Ustaoğlu / Turkey, France, Germany, Belgium 2008 / 112’
Should I Really Do It? /Bunu Gerçekten Yapmalı Mıyım?/İsmail Necmi / Turkey 2009 / 90’
Sommersault in a coffin Tabutta rovaşata/Derviş Zaim / Turkey 1996 / 75’
The Salt of Life /Hayatin Tuzu/Murat Düzgünoğlu / Turkey 2009 / 98’
The Small Town /Kasaba/Nuri Bilge Ceylan / Turkey 1997 / 82’ Shown with: Cocoon / Cocoon / 20’

Retrospective: Zeki Demirkubuz

Block-C /C-Blok/Zeki Demirkubuz / Turkey 1994 / 90’
Destiny /Kader/Zeki Demirkubuz / Turkey, Greece 2006 / 103’
Envy /Kiskanmak/Zeki Demirkubuz / Turkey 2009 / 96’
Fate /Yazgi/Zeki Demirkubuz / Turkey 2001 / 120’
Innocence /Masumiyet/Zeki Demirkubuz / Turkey 1997 / 105’
The Confession /İtiraf/Zeki Demirkubuz / Turkey 2001 / 100’
The Third Page /Üçüncü sayfa/Zeki Demirkubuz / Turkey 1999 / 92’
The Waiting Room /Bekleme odası/Zeki Demirkubuz / Turkey 2003 / 92’

ERA NOWE HORYZONTY is a festival of film visionaries, of uncompromising artists who have the courage to follow a path of their choice against the current trend and to tell about the most important things using their own unique language.
Roman Gutek – Festival Director


Nowe Kino Turcji

Books: New Cinema of Turkey
Nowe Kino Turcji Ed. Jan Topolski
New Cinema of Turkey is an anthology of texts by Turkish, German, English and Polish film critics and experts illustrated with photos from films and directors’ photographs. Limited by themes and connected with works and artists presented at the 10th IFF Era New Horizons.
The book joins two perspectives, of Western authors who reveal Turkish cinematography to them and of Turkish authors who make an attempt to describe it anew. Articles touch upon social relationships (with particular attention to the figure of a woman, a child and a father/husband), transformations in religion and culture under the influence of industrialization and Westernization, the opposition of provinces and the metropolis, and the presence of history and politics. They show how new Turkish cinema interprets classic genres; they try to provide its stylistic specificity; they look for auteur poetics. The anthology discusses the work of such filmmakers as Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Zeki Demirkubuz, Derviş Zaim, Yeşim Ustaoğlu, Semih Kaplanoğlu, Reha Erdem, Umit Ünal and Kazim Öz.

Poetry, severity, silence, new Turkish cinema

Jan Topolski: Poetry, severity, silence, new Turkish cinema

The New cinema of Turkey has taken Europe by storm. The Golden Bear went to Honey by Semih Kaplanoğlu in Berlin 2010, the best director award to Nuri Bilge Ceylan for Three Monkeys in Cannes 2008, retrospectives at festivals in Rotterdam in 2009, a season in Switzerland in 2008 and English books by Gönül Dönmuz-Colin and Asuman Suner. These are recent successes, while for several years now reviews have been organized in London, Boston, Berlin and Nuremberg. It began with debuts by an entire generation of filmmakers born around 1960 and made in the 1990s. They overcame a two-decade long crisis which had started after the fall of the golden era of Yeşilcamu (a studio production of predominantly lavish melodramas) and the attack of video and Western blockbusters on their industry. Today, over 70 films are produced in Turkey annually and domestic commercial productions have taken the first places in rankings for years. The country itself is undergoing fascinating transformations being torn between provincial backwardness and cosmopolitan Istanbul; between Asian tradition and aspirations for Europeanization; between the customs of a Kurdish minority, peoples from the Black Sea and Greeks and Armenians, and the nationalist myth of one Turk.

At first, we are struck by the poetic mood of the new cinema in Turkey. Slowed narration, the contemplation of landscape and faces, creative light, sound and editing, the use of symbols and significantly reduced dialogues. This may be seen in the works of the most awarded directors in the West such as Nuri Bilge Ceylan (*1959), Reha Erdem (*1960) and Semih Kaplanoğlu (*1963). The first director set an example to others by self-financing his initial films and engaging his family as actors (father in Clouds of May from 1999, his wife and himself in Climates from 2003). Ceylan is a master of melancholy, which was manifested inDistant (2002) with silent characters set against the backgroud of an Istanbul mist while in Three Monkeys from 2008 his disposition for photography was marked even stronger. The second filmmaker debuted as early as in 1989 with an audiovisual poemOh Moon; he made his name with a coming of age diptych Times and Winds (2006) and My Only Sunshine (2008) shown at the ENH 2007 and 2009 respectively. Erdem uses well-though-out camera movement, a creative sound landscape and characters who challenge reality (like the 'prophet' coming to Kars in Kosmosfrom 2009). Finally, the last director in his early film Angel's Fallfrom 2005 consolidated his style concerning the relationships between characters (father and daughter) full of silence and tension and dilemmas of individuality and dignity. Kaplanoğlu's talent bloomed in his half-autobiographical Yusuf's Trilogy, achronologically following the transformation of a sensitive boy (Honey from 2010) into a lost teenager (Milk from 2008) and an alienated poet (Egg from 2006, show at the ENH 2007).

This peculiar Turkish minimalism appears alongside a slowed action, limited editing and even camera movements and is predominantly in silence. Local critics frequently interpret these films as a symptom of oppression be it of women or children or historical traumas (martial laws, expulsions and massacres of minorities). A major director working within this trend is Zeki Demirkubuz (*1964) who is inspired by Dostoyevsky, Camus and Beckett. His films draw extensively on the tradition of melodrama or film noir, which is particularly visible in an untypical triangle and dark scenes in the lobbies of run-down hotels in Innocence(1997). His debut Block C (1994) raises questions about the identity of a new middle class in an original way; Fate (2001) is maybe the best adaptation ever of The Stranger by Camus about a man without emotions or beliefs; Envy (2009) is a successful attempt at historical cinema about a battle of proprieties with desires. However, there are more radical minimalisms such as silent dramas of unfulfilled love by Uygar Asan (Shell, 2007 andKnot, 2005) and Sombre Stories by Tayfun Pirselimoğlu about plunging into crime (Riza, 2007 and Fog 2009).

Turkish auteur cinema does not steer clear of experiment. Ümit Ünal (*1965) can shoot film in any genre, 9 (2003) is an urban comedy-drama, Istanbul Tales (2005) is novella-type cinema,Shadowless (2009) is a fantastic fairy tale, and The Voice (2010) a modern-time horror film. Distinctive productions are Ara (2007) a boldly edited mosaic of experiences by liberalized Istanbulites.Somersault in a Coffin (1996) by Derviş Zaim (*1964) enjoyed renown as an off-debut owing to a homeless, maladjusted and daydreaming protagonist. It is full of unexpected close-ups and cuts as well as original music. Later, the director set to an ambitious trilogy of traditional Turkish arts, whereas in Waiting for Heaven (2006) he dealt with miniatures, in Shadows and Faces(2010) with shadow theatre and in the middle Dot (2008) with calligraphy. In an original manner, he introduced an action film located in a dry salt lake and combining in several frames. Being completely outside the mainstream, youth is represented by Ismail Necmi and Fatih Haciosmanoğlu. Should I Really Do It(2009) by the former artist is a paradocumentary about a hair stylist who discloses her secrets in sessions with a man in a latex mask; Concrete Pillow (2007), by the same director, is a completely auteur creation about returning to Turkey after many years, full of unsaid words, sudden changes and syncope.

Despite noble exceptions, it is not an exaggeration to say that the majority of Turkish cinema, beside obviously commercial productions, constitutes, more or less literal, realism. A great example is in the feature debut by Pelin Esmer, 10 to 11 (2009). Being a recognized documentary film author, she once again portrayed her uncle, keen collector, yet she added some arranged scenes. Typical features in this film include a care for details in the background; slow action and the thorough mapping out of characters are also found in My Marlon and Brando (2008) by Hüseyin Karabey. The spontaneous acting by both protagonists is worth emphasizing, and for this genre there is an equally fresh combination of melodrama and a film of the road to the East. A modest comedy-drama The Salt of Life (2008) by Murat Düzgünoğlu depicts rare surroundings with three brothers in the provinces trying to find the meaning of the existence included in the film title. Much effort was exerted by Kazım Öz (*1973) to depict the everyday life of migrant shepherds in The Last Season: Shawaks (2008), a dying-out way of life involving living with a herd and one another in primitive settlements layla in highlands.

Kazım Öz gained his reputation not only for his flair for documentaries but also for introducing difficult themes as he is a Kurd himself and acts for this community. In the area of social cinema, Yeşim Ustaoğlu (*1960) is the main figure due to her themes involving minorities and traumas. In Journey to the Sun(1999), a friendship between a Turk and a Kurd is paid with the highest price and in Waiting for the Clouds (2003), she reminds us about the expulsions of Greeks in the 1920s from the angle of modern times. Finally, Pandora's Box (2008) is a protest against life without roots which have been torn out due to the drive for wealth and mass emigration from taşra to Istanbul. In the centre of the last films, there are strong women who do not always enjoy an equal status in the Turkish cinema; although they might be self-reliant in Demirkubuz and Erdem, a male dominates in Kaplanoğlu and Zaim. This important motif was frequently discussed by Serdar Akar (*1964), for instance in On board(1999) where a woman and a prostitute both enter the life of a ship's crew. In addition, In Bar (2007) a group of young men destroy the life of happy peers due to sexual frustration. Expulsion, unemployment and life on the margins returns in more comic tones in Absurd Dialogues in the Suburbs by İzmir and inBornova Bornova (2009) by Inan Temelkuran and bitter humour based on blunders of a loser protagonist in Dark Cloud (2009) by Theron Patterson.

As you can see, Turkish cinema today offers a wide spectrum of characters, trends and problems. It is not an accident that the subtitles of two books mentioned at the beginning are Identity, Distance and Belonging, and Belonging, Identity and Memoryrespectively. Undoubtedly, affiliation is the hottest motif of recent years both in an ethnic context (Ustaoğlu, Karabey and Öz) and as effects of migration from rural areas to cities, a theme which is most readily exploited, and finally in expelled characters, from the first film by Zaim to the last one by Erdem. Identity is created also through maturing, which was beautifully and metaphorically presented by Kaplanoğlu in his entire Yusuf's Trilogy and by Erdem in his diptych. Another key problem for a Turkish soul seems to be the entangling of the melancholy of lonely characters (Ceylan, Asan) with tragic love (Demirkubuz, Ünal). It is even referred to as an arabesque sentimental style somewhat inherited from the golden era of Yeşilcamu.

The selection of the repertoire involved many stages and had plenty of twists. First of all, as if to spite expectations, we decided on a restrospective of Demirkubuz''s work who is completely unknown in Poland. Secondly, two films each (usually, a debut and the last one) in the review were reserved for other masters such as Ceylan, Erdem, Kaplanoğlu, Ustaoğlu and Zaim. Thirdly, during the process of agreeing on which titles we should show, it turned out that, outside the time bracket of 1994-2010, it was worth reminding people about the harbinger of a trend represented by Erdem's debut and respecting the selection of Kaplanoğlu as the central figure of Ale kino! Filmy Świata Festival. Fourthly, there were awards at the most important festivals such as those in Antalya and Istanbul and then trips full of adventures such as screenings without subtitles and being trapped by a volcanic cloud on the second one. The selection of Akar and Ünala resulted from their skilful oscillation between commercial and artistic films. Fifthly, there was the purchaing of DVDs, in particular, from a secret store in a small side street in the Istanbul district of Beyoğlu. You knock on the door on the second floor above the barber's and after an inspection a display case filled with the best productions, but not exactly legal ones, is offered to you. Still, Ceylan is reportedly buying here... Finally, we had conversations with other critics and qualifiers. Particularly, we would like to thank Ludmila Cvikova who was the curator of a large review of Turkish cinema in Rotterdam in 2009; Cüneyt Cebenoyan for discussions and all of the contacts; Fırat Yücel and the team of Altyazı Monthly for their advice and assistance with the book. This is why we have films by such authors as Karabey, Esmer, Öz, Necmi, Temelkuran and Düzgünoğlu. Obviously, many films and directors were passed, yet it is always like that when making choices. Let me mention three names for those of you who will catch the bug: there are Tayfun Pirselimoğlu, Kutlug Ataman and Handan Ipekci. I hope that the New Cinema of Turkey Section at this year's ENH is just the beginning of your and our adventure with this fascinating cinematography. Have a nice meeting!

Jan Topolski

The text based on an article published in "Kino" 06/2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Awards of the 29th International Istanbul Film Festival

Awards of the 29th International Istanbul Film Festival
The Awards Ceremony and the Closing Gala of the 29th edition of the International İstanbul Film Festival was held on Saturday, April 17, at Lütfi Kırdar Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Lifetime Achievement Award of the Festival was presented to Austrian actor and director Klaus Maria Brandauer. The other awards were as follows:
The International Jury of the 29th International Istanbul Film Festival presided over by actor and director Klaus Maria Brandauer and composed of producer Tom Luddy, actress Anamaria Marinca, cinematographer Anders Refn and director Jasmila Zbanic has decided to give the:
• Golden Tulip in memory of Şakir Eczacıbaşı to THE MISFORTUNATES directed by Felix Van Groeningen, for "giving us a contemporary, raw, energetic and truthful picture of how hard it is to grow up; and for portraying with precise and sensible details, individual change and the power of art."
• Special Jury Prize to SANDRINE KIBERLAIN in Mademoiselle Chambon directed by Stéphane Brizé, because "a universe of wishes and desires, doubts and anxieties, and craft comes every second through her eyes and her entire body. A dream of an actress in a film..."
The National Jury of the 29th International Istanbul Film Festival presided over by director Yeşim Ustaoğlu, and composed of actress Ülkü Duru, actor Güven Kıraç, executive director of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival Peter Scarlet, writer Latife Tekin has decided to give:
• The Golden Tulip Best Film Award to VAVIEN directed by Yağmur Taylan and Durul Taylan;
• the Best Director Award to MİRAZ BEZAR for his film Min Dît - Ben Gördüm / The Children of Diyarbakir.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey gave a monetary prize of 50,000 TL to each of the above-mentioned winners.
• The Best Actress Award to ŞENAY ORAK for her performance in Min Dît - Ben Gördüm / The Children Of Diyarbakır;
• The Best Actor Award to TANSU BİÇER for his performance in Beş Şehir / Five Cities.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey gave a monetary prize of 10,000 TL to each of the above-mentioned winners.
• The Best Screenplay Award to ENGİN GÜNAYDIN for his screenplay for Vavien;
• The Best Director of Photography Award to BARIŞ ÖZBİÇER for his work in Bal / Honey;
• the Best Music Award to MUSTAFA BİBER for his work for Min Dît - Ben Gördüm / The Children Of Diyarbakır;
• The Special Prize of the Jury to BAL / HONEY by Semih Kaplanoğlu.
The FACE Award (Council of Europe Film Award) is presented to the director of a film that arises public awareness and interest in human rights issues, creates better understanding of their importance, and best reflects the Council's values of respect for human rights, individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law. The award includes a sculpture in bronze and a cash prize of Euro 10,000. It is awarded as part of the Human Rights in Cinema section of the festival. The Human Rights Jury of the 29th International İstanbul Film Festival is composed of director Marco Becchis, Executive Director of Eurimages, the European Film Fund Roberto Olla, director Sırrı Süreyya Önder and director of co-operation in the Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs of the Council of Europe, Marja Ruotanen decided to give:
• The FACE AWARD to AJAMI by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani (Israel-Germany) for being an "original tale of a multilayered society where different religions, beliefs, traditions and interests have to co-exist. The two directors have skilfully found the right cinematographic language to tell this powerful story."
• The Special Jury Prize to THE DAY GOD WALKED AWAY by Philippe van Leeuw (France-Belgium) "not to forget Rwanda."
The FIPRESCI Jury of the 29th International Istanbul Film Festival presided over by Barbara Lorey and composed of Marli Feldvoss, Salome Kikaleishvili, Anisoara Dumitrescu, Aslı Selçuk, Özgür Şeyben gave:
• The FIPRESCI Prize in the International Competition to "MADEMOISELLE CHAMBON" by Stéphane Brizé (France) "for a magnificently told story about renouncement, a love story that puts ordinary people's lives in turmoil, which talks to us through moments of silence rather than words;"
• The FIPRESCI Prize in the National Competition, in memory of Onat Kutlar, to "VAVIEN" directed by Yağmur Taylan and Durul Taylan, "for an utmost enjoyable and unpredictable, well-acted dark comedy from the heartland of Anatolia that links elements of popular comedy with a witty and intelligent screenplay."
As in the previous years, Efes Pilsen has given a prize of US$ 30.000 to the winner of the Onat Kutlar Prize, Yağmur Taylan and Durul Taylan, to be used for their next film project.
People's Choice Awards sponsored by the Radikal Newspaper and determined by the votes of the Festival audience, are given to:
• I KILLED MY MOTHER by Xavier Dolan in the International Competition, and
• BAL / HONEY by Semih Kaplanoğlu in the National Competition.
Organised for the third time within the Meetings on the Bridge platform, the Feature Film Project Development Workshop Award was given to ORHAN ESKIKÖY AND ZEYNEL DOĞAN for their project Babamın Sesi / Voice of My Father receiving a monetary award of US$10.000 with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, and also post-production award worth 25,000 Turkish Liras by Melodika. The monetary award worth €10.000 by Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC) was won by EMRE YEKSAN AND EMRAH SERBES for their project Üst Kattaki Terörist / Terrorist Upstairs.
Fourteen projects remained from the 65 applications after the pre-selection by director Tayfun Pirselimoğlu, producer Sevil Demirci, production consultant Isabelle Fauvel, producer and festival director Ahmet Boyacıoğlu, producer Yamaç Okur and producer Zeynep Özbatur Atakan. The winning projects were selected from among these 14 projects by Amra Baksic Camo, Katriel Schory, Ellis Driessen, Jacobine Van Der Vloed, Lilette Botassi, Nicole Mackey, Marie Pierre Macia, Michel Reilhac, Mira Staleva, Roberto Olla, Savina Neirotti and Simon Perry.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Two Reviews | Bal

Screen International (Lee Marshall) review
critic.de (Thorsten Funke) kritik
Honey (Bal)16 February, 2010 By Lee Marshall

Dir/prod: Semih Kaplanoglu. Turkey-Germany. 2010. 103mins.

The third part of Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu’s reverse-order trilogy, Honey depicts his partly autobiographical hero Yusuf as a withdrawn, stuttering child growing up in a remote part of rural Turkey.

Like the previous two installments, Egg and Milk, Honey is very beautiful and very studied, with a sometimes oppressive sense of directorial control. At the same time, however, film’s protagonist – who looks to be aged six or seven – is the most affecting of the three Yusufs we’ve seen so far and his story is the least subject to the symbolic baggage that weighed down parts one and two. The result is a measured, slow-moving film that invites its audience in with one arm and keeps it at a safe distance with the other.

We see a lot of the young protagonist, Yusuf, and we want to know more about his point of view, but the director seems to be standing in front of the screen.

Egg and Milk were festival darlings, but achieved scant theatrical distribution. Honey might have more of a chance on the far reaches of the art house circuit, helped by a strong performance from child actor Altas. Now that the trilogy is complete, there is scope for DVD box sets and back-to-back screenings, though perhaps not at the local multiplex.

Honey’s opening shot is almost a parody of arthouse cinema as a long still frame of trees in a forest eventually reveals a man in the far distance who leads his mule towards the camera until they are framed in a mid-shot. At the same time, the pace and especially the heightened soundscape of forest sounds, birdsong and creaking branches, does start to engage the viewer in the film’s version of a timeless elsewhere.

The man is Yakup (Besikcioglu), Yusuf’s father, and he is a gatherer of wild honey, a risky trade which involves climbing up ropes into the tops of trees where the hives are.
It takes us a while to piece together Yusuf’s world: first, the audience discovers with a little surprise that the action is set in October 2009; that Yusuf can read and speak just fine when he’s addressing his father, but is tongue-tied to the point of stuttering paralysis in social situations, such as when asked to read aloud at school.

After 20 minutes, Yusuf’s mother (Ozen) appears, but it’s not until close to the end that a placing shot allows us to see that the wooden house where Yusuf lives is halfway up a mountain, overlooking the village where he goes to school.

Incident is kept to a minimum: Yusuf accompanies his father on honey gathering expeditions; half in hope, half in despair, he eyes the jar at school where his teacher keeps the ribbons that are awarded to prize pupils; he gets his deskmate into trouble, feels bad about it; goes with his grandmother to a Mi’Raj Holy Night reading from the Koran; and tries to catch the moon reflected in a bucketful of water.

Dialogue is kept to minimum, and there is no music. The photography is controlled and self-consciously aesthetic. But after a while we yearn for a little more spontaneity, especially as the story is partly about a child’s discovery of poetry and the poetic against the background of an adult world that at times seems sternly prosaic. We see a lot of Yusuf, and want to know more about his point of view, but the director seems to be standing in front of the screen.

Kritik von Thorsten Funke

Extrem ruhig und extrem schön: Semih Kaplanoğlus Bal schließt die Yusuf-Trilogie des türkischen Regisseurs ab. Er bildet eine tief in sich ruhende Mitte des Berlinale-Wettbewerbs.

Die erste Einstellung dauert geschlagene fünf Minuten. Die Kamera steht unbeweglich im Wald, man lauscht den Geräuschen, irgendwann regt sich etwas im Dickicht. Ein Mann führt einen Esel vom Bildhintergrund in den Bildvordergrund, was allein schon eine ganze Weile dauert. Dann wirft er mit gekonntem Schwung ein Seil über einen außerhalb der Kadrierung liegenden Ast und zurrt es fest. Als endlich der Schnitt kommt, wird es geradezu dramatisch: Der Mann klettert, der Ast beginnt zu brechen, der Mann – nun rückt die Kamera näher und betrachtet ihn von oben – hängt hilflos in der Luft. Dann folgt noch ein Schnitt, und die Szene ist zu Ende.

Ein typischer Semih-Kaplanoğlu-Prolog, sehr verwandt dem Vorgängerfilm Süt (2008), der erst kürzlich in Deutschland im Kino lief (siehe dazu unsere Kritik und unser Interview). Da gab es auch eine sehr lange Einstellung zu Beginn, in der ein Baum und ein Seil eine Rolle spielten und eine Person an diesem Seil hing. Und es gab eine Schlange, die an verschiedenen Stellen des Films vielsagend-geheimnisvoll erneut auftauchte.

Reptilien gibt es in dem neuen Film nicht, der sehr viel weniger symbolisch aufgeladen ist. Vor allem der Prolog steht nicht als Monolith für sich, sondern erhält im weiteren Verlauf seinen Ort und seine Zeit in der Handlung zurück: Er reicht die Erzählung vom Tod des Vaters nach, jenes Mannes, der in Yumurta (2007) und Süt, den beiden ersten Teilen von Kaplanoğlus Yusuf-Trilogie, abwesend war.
Diese Trilogie handelt in umgekehrter Chronologie von der künstlerischen Reifung eines Dichters in der ländlichen, traditionellen Umgebung Anatoliens. Wurde in Teil eins zunächst das Erwachsenenleben Yusufs behandelt und dann in Teil zwei seine Jugend, so geht es in Bal nun um das etwa sechsjährige Kind. Von einer Berufung zum Dichter ist in diesem Film noch nicht viel zu merken: In der Schule macht das Lesen dem Jungen (Bora Altaş) gehörige Schwierigkeiten. Seine poetische Ader drückt sich eher in einem innigen Verhältnis zur Natur aus und in seiner Verschlossenheit, die die Mutter zuweilen ratlos werden lässt. Yusuf ist seinem Vater sehr stark verbunden und begleitet ihn bei der Arbeit in den Wald, den Kaplanoğlu mit der Kamera in wunderschönen Bildern einfängt wie eine Märchenlandschaft. Eine kleine Kamerafahrt entlang wilder Blumen. Ein Reh, das plötzlich, über Yusufs Schulter gefilmt, auf einer Lichtung steht – und darüber freut man sich wirklich. Der Mond, der sich in einem Wassereimer spiegelt, verschwindet, als Hände in das Wasser tauchen, und dann wieder erscheint. Wie ein wiederkehrender Traum.

Zugleich findet all das aber auch an einem sehr realen Ort statt. An dem Ort nämlich, an dem der Vater das Geld verdient. Er hängt Bienenstöcke an besonders hohe Bäume. Diese Sequenzen sind mehr ethnografisch als poetisch. Die Arbeitsschritte der Honiggewinnung werden gezeigt, verschiedene sehr unbekannt anmutende Gerätschaften, später auch mit einiger Ausführlichkeit ein traditioneller Tanz. Kaplanoğlu, dessen eigener Vater aus dieser Region Anatoliens stammt, hält all das mit fast schon konservatorischem Interesse fest, denn natürlich ist diese Welt in der modernen Türkei dem Untergang geweiht. Im weiteren Leben Yusufs, das wir schon kennen, er aber nicht, erhält die Moderne dort Einzug, mit Hochhäusern und Veränderungen der sozialen Strukturen.