Thursday, October 14, 2010

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)

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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 –

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