Dirs/Writers: Cagla Zencirci, Guillaume Giovanetti | Cast: Damla Sonmez, Erkan Kolcak Kostendil, Meral Çetinkaya, Emin Gürsoy, Elit Iscan | Drama | 95′
Turkish village life is shamelessly exposed by defiant nature girl Sibel in this ravishingly rocking fable from directing duo Zencirci and Giovanetti premiering here at Locarno Film Festival 2018.
SIBEL is another of the directing duo’s studies examining freedom and belonging following on from Noor (2012) and Ningen (2013). This tightly-scripted and perfectly-paced suspense fable also draws similarities with Reha Erdem’s escape-themed Jin (2013) that explored the perilous life of a Kurdish guerrilla girl on the run in the Anatolian mountains, but in this more intimate drama the setting is the isolated Black Sea town of Kuskoy in Northern Turkey known for its whistled language which adapts standard Turkish syllables into piercing tones that help the scattered locals to communicate long distance when working in the steep hillsides. Eric Devin’s widescreen camerawork conveys the magnificence of this lushly forested region.
And it’s here that Sibel lives with her authoritarian father and wayward younger sister Fatma. It’s a really powerful performance from Damla Sonmez who must be the first actor to whistle her part: strong-willed Sibel is mute from birth but has a closer bond with her father who has seen no reason to remarry much to the chagrin of the local small-minded women who marginalise and menace the young woman for her feral beauty and the freedom that her so-called ‘handicap’ allows. And we feel for her. With women like these in the community it’s hardly surprising that menfolk would want to keep them down. Sibel is ostracised by every one of them, including her sister. One particularly resonant scene sees Sibel crying silently up at camera, but her speechlessness also works to her advantage allowing her to develop self-reliance and single-mindedness that sets her apart from the others as one of the two strong female characters in the narrative. The other is her bohemian aunt who lives alone on the hillside encouraging her to follow her instincts: “women get their power from nature” These scenes in the forest provide a refreshing antidote to the female-centric plot-line that portraying the traditional local life that is dominated by the women folk’s need to subjugate themselves to a male-domination. And it’s into this natural habit that Sibel regularly retreats to spend time reflecting and also to hunt down a mysterious wolf threatening the village. It soon transpires that this wolf is really a metaphor for the immigrant outsider feared by the villagers. But soon a stranger does emerge, in the shape of fugitive Ali (Erkan Kolcak Kostendil) who will complete Sibel’s journey to self-realisation in this tense and stunningly filmic arthouse piece. MT
IN COMPETITION | LOCARNO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | 1-11 AUGUST 2018