Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tribeca 2912 | Beyond the Hill

Beyond the Hill
Release Year: 2012
Runtime: 94 Minutes Directed by: Emin Alper


In the quiet foothills of Turkey, Faik lives an isolated existence. When his second son brings his boys for a visit, Faik takes the opportunity to pontificate about the law of the land, as he sees it. He shares one unsolicited thought after the next, most particularly focusing on the elusive nomads whom he suspects have been trespassing on his property. The day and night wear on, and each member of the clan takes his turn entrusting the film's audience with his own dark secret.

In his feature debut, Emin Alper demonstrates a level of skill and subtlety in execution that earns him the distinction of a talent to watch. His use of space and setting creates a strikingly ominous narrative out of the simplicity of topography and facial expression. These landscapes—whether Faik's hills or a twisting grimace in close-up—become the driving dramatic forces within the story. Masterfully evoking tension through isolation, landscape, and unspoken conflict, Alper conveys that what lies beyond the hill may be far less damaging than what is within your walls.

--Ashley Havey

Saturday, April 28, 2012

2012 | Araf by Yeşim Ustaoğlu

Written & directed by: Yeşim Ustaoğlu [1] ; Cinematographer: Michael HammonSound Engineer: Bruno Tarriere; Produced by: Ustaoglu Film (Turkey), CDP (France), The Match Factory (Germany)Produced by: Ustaoğlu Film (Turkey), CDP (France), The Match Factory (Germany) | Format: 35mm / color / Turkey / Germany / France 2012 Original Language: Turkish 
Match Factory | Araf  Site
Cast: Özcan Deniz, Neslihan Atagül, Barıs Hacıhan, Ilgaz Kocatürk, Nihal Yalçın

ARAF - SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN is the story of Zehra (18) and Olgun (18) whose lives are caught in a vacuum. They both work 24 hour shifts in a large motorway service station. The world in which they live and work is a place of throwaway culture and constant change. They too are waiting for a chance to change and escape from their empty, monotonous lives.

When Zehra is not working, she spends her life in front of the TV. She dreams that one day she will escape her dull surroundings and go far away to live a glamorous life and fall wonderfully in love like the characters she sees on the box. Zehra's colleague Olgun, who is wildly in love with Zehra and doesn't give up trying to impress her, also has big plans for his life: He wants to get rich quickly by winning a TV gameshow and become a power- ful and impressive man.

Zehra and Olgun share the same TV-fuelled dreams. But one day their lives are turned upside down, when Zehra falls passionately in love with a lorry driver, Mahur (38), who arrives at the petrol station during the winter. While Zehra discovers her own body, sexual powers and self- confidence through her affair with Mahur and starts to slowly lose her girlish innocence, Olgun, who is troubled by this change in Zehra, starts to try more outlandish stunts, inspired by those he has seen on TV, to make himself a local hero and win her back.

When Zehra learns that she is pregnant, she tries to protect her unborn child within a very conservative society and she learns that only she can take responsibility for her life and decide on its' direction. Olgun's violent reaction, brought about by his incredible disappointment and wounded pride at this news, lands him in prison.

After some time though, he learns the meaning of true love and selflessness. Over the course of the film young Zehra and Olgun grow up and learn the stark truths of life eventually embrac- ing each other and discovering a way out of this 'Araf,' or 'somewhere in between,' albeit ending up very far from their initial dreams...

[1]  After making several award-winning shorts in Turkey, Yesim Ustaoglu made her feature film debut in 1994 with THE TRACE. She received international recognition for her JOURNEY TO THE SUN (GÜNESE YOLCULUK). In competition at the Berlin Film Festival in 1999, it received the Blue Angel Award (Best European Film) and the Peace Prize. The moving story of a courageous friendship undaunted by political cruelty, JOURNEY TO THE SUN swept the Istanbul Film Festival by winning Best Film, Best Director, the FIPRESCI Prize and the Audience Award. Her third film, WAITING FOR THE CLOUDS, the story of a woman forced to live for 50 years with the haunting secrets of a hidden identity, was awarded NHK Sundance - International Film-maker's award and thus established a strong reputation for the director. With her fourth film, PANDORA'S BOX, the story of an old woman suffering from Alzheimer disease, Turkish filmmaker Yesim Ustaoglu won the Best Film and Best Actress award in San Sebastian in 2008, con- tinued to travel many international festival and was also released theatrically in many countries. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Review | Turkish history without subtlety

Turkish history without subtlety
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, Apr. 27, 2012

"Making history is no job for cowards," announces the hero of "Fetih 1453," a Turkish war epic that's awash in virility. Even the movie's principal female character, who poses as a guy to help her adoptive father build state-of-the-art cannons, exemplifies manly virtue.

Battle flicks are big on bravery, of course, and this account of the Turkish conquest of Constantinople doesn't stint on courageous self-sacrifice. For every soul-stirring clash, however, there's at least one laugh-out-loud moment. Making history may require only bravado, but making historical movies demands subtlety as well.

The 1453 fall of Constantinople, legend has it, was foretold by Muhammad. So the movie begins with the announcement of Islam's prophet - not actually shown, since that would be blasphemous - that the Orthodox Christian city will fall. It's left to young Sultan Mehmet II (Devrim Evin), a classic overachiever, to fulfill the prediction some 800 years later.

"Fetih 1453" was cut by 25 minutes for American release, but there are still plenty of preliminaries. Relying heavily on CGI, director Faruk Aksoy swoops from Mehmet's court to Constantinople, Genoa, the Vatican and other grand places, introducing the political powers that support or,, more likely, oppose the sultan's ambitions. When the locale is Christian, the filmmakers helpfully emblazon just about every piece of clothing and furniture with a cross.

The combat scenes that rouse the last third of the movie employ thousands of people (or their digital avatars). But, like most such epics, "Fetih 1453" focuses on just a few players. In addition to Mehmet, there's his friend and sword-fighting coach Hasan (Ibrahim Celikkol), an exemplary warrior who's guaranteed the spotlight during the final battle.

Hasan loves Era (Dilek Serbest), who was sold into slavery but freed by weapon-maker Urban (Erdogan Aydemir). Era keeps spurning Hasan's proposals, but once they become comrades in arms, her attraction to him grows. There's even a kiss, although the movie is careful about such things. Scantily clad dancing girls are kept on the Christian side of the beaded curtain, and Mehmet is reduced to a single wife. (The historical sultan had a few more.)

The movie's English subtitles sometimes fail it, and perhaps some wit was lost in translation. Given the stilted acting, though, it seems likely that the dialogue is just as clunky in the original. Even Turkish audiences probably giggle when Mehmet solemnly instructs troops headed to a brutal war to "have a safe trip."

Contains bloody violence. In Turkish with English subtitles.