Posts Tagged ‘Turkish art house’

A Taste of Anatolia | Turkish Film Festival 2023

Turkish cinema comes to England this November courtesy of TASTE OF ANATOLIA – the only film festival in the UK dedicated to cinema of Turkey.

Celebrating its 5th edition, the full programme is available online on the film platform Balik Arts Tv and at live ‘in person’ screenings at the Rio Cinema, London, Old Divinity School, St John’s College, Cambridge University, North London Community House in London, Refugee Workers Cultural Association in London, University of East Anglia in Norwich and Aylesbury Youth Action in Buckinghamshire, the festival stretching to four towns for the first time.

Expect to see the latest releases from the festival circuit including Black Night (2022) and Snow and the Bear (2022) that premiered at the prestigious Golden Orange Festival in Antalya on Turkey’s Mediterranean riviera.


Mujde (2021))

Dir.: Alphan Eseli; Cast: Lale Mansur, Salim Kechiouche, Onur Bilge, Erdeniz Kurucan; Turkey 2021, 48 min.

MUJDE shines a critical light on Turkey packing a pithy story into an hour unlike so many features nowadays that drag on interminably relying on atmosphere to carry a paper thin narrative.

Recently widowed Mujde (a brilliant Lale Mansur) rightly suspects her son Okan (Kurucan) and his estate agent friend Berat (Bilge) of having ulterior motives in persuading her to sell the large family house and move to a poky flat in central Istanbul. But she goes ahead nevertheless and employs three Syrian immigrants to help with the move. One of the them, Sayyid (Kechiouche), has lost his son in the Syrian conflict, and his vulnerability leads to romance with the lonely widow. The two make an odd couple, Mujde’s friends disapproving either on the grounds of jealousy or general hostility towards Syrian immigrants who are seen as second class citizens by the local Turks. An unexpected turn of events leads to tragedy on Shakespearean proportions when Sayyid is called back to Syria leaving Mujde in the lurch.

Set amongst Istanbul’s colourful shops and bazars and domestic interiors that bring to mind Fassbinder’s Fear eats up the soul, Mujde is an affirmation of contemporary cinema, proving a strong script is still central to successful filmmaking. Best known for his critically acclaimed drama The Long Way Home (2013) Alphan Eseli is also co-founder of the Art and Culture platform ISTANBUL’74. AS



The Wild Pear Tree | Ahlat Agaci (2018)****

Dir/Writer: Nuri Bilge Ceylan/Ebru Ceylan | Cast: Serkan Keskin, Hazar Erguclu, Ahmet Rifat Sungar | Drama | Turkey/France/Germany/Bulgaria/Macedonia/Bosnia and Herzegovina/Sweden 2018 | 188′

For some the countryside is a retreat where hopes and dreams merge with solitude and recovery. For a father and a son in THE WILD PEAR TREE the sweeping landscapes of Western Turkey’s Marmara region are a place of shattered hopes and despair.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan imbues his melancholy mood piece with the usual visual richness in a slow-burning saga that revolves around aspiring writer Sinan (Aydin Dogu Demirkol) who returns from army service to his native village to raise the money to publish his first book. But his father’s debts catch up with him and put a stop to his personal aspirations. Running at a little over three hours, this long-awaited follow to Winter Sleep and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia takes the customary languorous and discursive pace. The wide screen splendour also makes time for quietly intimate moments but there is no melodrama or ‘major developments’ in a film that plays out contemplatively as the story naturally unfolds.

Sinan is not particularly glad to be back home in the small rural village of Çan, where he holds the community in disdain. But his father Idris’ gambling has spiralled out of control causing his mother and sister to do without, so Sinan starts to do the rounds of friends and family in search of finance for his literary endeavour.

Contrary to the title, a wild pear tree never features in the film, and there is no love lost between Sinan and his father Idris, their relationship slowly deteriorating for obvious reasons. There is a sense of longing for urban civilisation, and while the film takes much delight in the convincingly creditable characterisations and conversation pieces, which are quietly enjoyable, often philosophical (even a little bit over talky at times), it’s clear that Sinan is no more enamoured with this rural idyll than when he reluctantly arrived.

Ceylan returns to the evergreen signature themes that have been present in his work since the beginning and have gained him a reputation and a strong following, along with his elegantly crafted widescreen style and well-rounded character studies. And there is always a touch of dry wit to lighten proceedings while grounding them in community, local politics, moral and ethical issues and family concerns.

In some ways, his latest is an expansion of his FIPRESCI and Golden Tulip winner Clouds of May (1999) and has the same ripe quality of visual sumptuousness throughout. Dermirkol plays Sinan as a vaguely unsympathetic character whose ennui with his family and rural life simply demonstrates an ardent need to get on with his aspirations rather than indicating a deeply flawed personality. But maybe they are one in the same. Ceylan eyes his antihero in a detached and observational way that makes him really convincing as a representative of his generation. In contrast to the self-sacrificing heroes of the early 1900s, Sinan is a full-fledged 21st century man. MT

ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 30 NOVEMBER 2018 | Cannes Film Festival Premiere

SAF (2018) **** Toronto Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Ali Vatansever; Cast: Saadet Isil Aksoy, Erol Afsin; Turkey/ Romania/Germany 2018, 101 min.

Ali Vatansever’s SAF is a paean to a lesser known part of Istanbul, where the denizens of the Fikirtepe district are hounded out of their homes to make way for luxury apartment blocks. Kamil’s story is symbolic of the uprooting and exploitation of ordinary working people who then resort to racism when they are unable to fight or even identify their real enemies. SAF also reminds us that racism is rife in every corner of the world where the old guard must now accommodate the newcomers.

We first meet Kamil (Afsin) at the gates of a building site. He’s a decent bloke trying to defend a Syrian émigré against his Turkish colleagues who call him a “filthy Arab who wants to take our jobs away”. The truth is Syrian workers are paid less than the native Turks, who call them scabs. Kamil finally gets a job on another building project, replacing the Syrian bulldozer driver Ammar, laid off due to a shoulder injury. At home, Kamil’s wife Remziye (Aksoy) is saving her paltry wages so she can afford to have a baby. Remziye works for a wealthy Turkish family in one of the newbuild luxury blocks. But Remziye also starts bending the rules upsetting her husband when he discovers her taking more than their fair share from the communal vegetable garden. “It does not matter that the others do it”, he tells her.

But his troubles at work are only just beginning: Kamil doesn’t have a licence to operate the bulldozer (unlike Ammar) and the licence fee – more or less a bribe to the bureaucratic authorities – is pretty steep. Fatih won’t lend him the money but the two strike a deal to try and get rid of Ammar. But after the plan goes wrong, Kamil disappears. The final scenes are played out through Remziye’s perspective.

Vatansever’s detached style never resorts to melodrama or sentimentality in showing how innocent people are often helplessly caught up in rapid social change, Their racism is ugly but is just a deflection of their own fears. Kamil tries his best to stay neutral, but in the end he is so overwhelmed by a family demanding he bends the rules for their own advantage.  SAF is carried forward by the sheer brilliance of Saadet Isil Aksoy whose Remziye acts in an enlightened and humanitarian way when the chips are down. DoP Vladimir Panduru shows the ugliness of poverty but also the lyrical poetry that lies between the tracks. With echoes of Barnet and Pudovkin’s early films. SAF is as impressive as it’s low key, Aksoy’s presence giving it a magical touch. Ali Vatansever demonstrates how less can be so much more. AS          

TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL 2018                    



Sibel (2018) **** Locarno International Film Festival 2018

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





Until I lose My Breath (2015) | Nefesim Kesilene Kadar | LTFF 2015

Writer/Director: Emine Emel Balci

Cast: Esme Madra, Riza Akin, Gizem Denizci, Sema Kecik

94min  Drama  Turkish with subtitles

In poor district of Istanbul Emine Emel Balci’s sure-footed feature debut, UNTIL I LOSE MY BREATH, follows a driven young woman, Dardennes-style. Senap (Esme Madra) is holding down a low-paid job in a garment factory, with little support from her friends or sister and brother in law, who only care about her contribution to the rent. Clearly Serap, is no fool and planning for better things; saving every Lira she can to pay for an apartment she’s hoping to share with her dad, Musatafa (Riza Akin), who has little regard for his youngest daughter, having already abandoned her as a child. Serap is quite keen on Yusuf (Ugur Uzunel), one of the factory delivery boys who often drives by to shoot the breeze with his mates and Seraps’s co-worker Dilber (Gizem Denizci), under the watchful glare of their draconian boss Sultan (Sema Kecik).

There’s nothing particularly new about this well-crafted and watchable tale of modern Turkey that shows our heroine as a diligent worker who is serious and emotionally unreachable in view of the negative experience that life has dealt her thus far. What emerges is a society where women compete with each other, desperate to escape to a better life abroad. We learn that Musatafa is a traditional male who is looking to a plaint female to take care of him, until the next one comes along.

One briefly joyful scene stands out – where Senap goes on a fairground rollercoaster but ends up vomiting into a waste bin: its almost as if women here are destined not to have any pleasure without pain in a place which is distinguishable only by its dismal streets, sunless skies and over-bearing disreputable males, seen through Murat Tuncel melancholy visuals.

Esme Madra’s debut turn as Serap shows promise as an actor who could well bloom and flourish in other more ambitious roles. MT


19th London Turkish Film Festival 2014

Celebrating its 19th year, the London Turkish film festival brings new films from Turkey. Six will compete for the coveted GOLDEN WINGS LTFF Distribution Award, which last year went to THE BUTTERFLY’S DREAM.  The programme this year will include Alphan Eseli’s magnificent First World War drama THE LONG WAY HOME, also a fitting tribute to this year’s 1914 centenary celebrations.




Yurt (2011) Home

Director: Muzaffer Özdemir

Cast: Kanbolat Gorkem Arslan, Muhammet Uzuner, Muzaffer Özdemir,

75min     Turkish with subtitles

[youtube id=”WavBbMoy4O8″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

In 2002 Muzaffer Özdemir won Best Actor at Cannes for Distant (Uzak) and has appeared in many of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s films.

Yurt in which he also stars, is his directorial debut. Essentially an arthouse piece it has a similar melancholic feel to Uzak and the wide screen visuals of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, although it lingers a little longer on them possibly reflecting the artistic leanings of its central character, Dogan, (Kanbolat Gorkem Arslan) a world-weary architect from Istanbul.

There’s also a mountain freshness to this tale of introspective nostalgia that sees him going back to his home Gumushane, in the verdant valleys and sweeping mountainsides of Anatolia, in the hope of taking time out to meditate on his life and re-connect with a positive past. It’s almost as if he is hoping to tap into a font of rejuvenating power to sooth his jaded palette of the fast-moving modern world of Istanbul. Kanbolat Gorkem Arslan gives a quietly resonating performance as the gentle but probing Dogan: he talks to a primrose at one point and creates light reflections in a stream with the bell rescued from a dead lamb. It’s a delicate touch symbolic of the fragility of nature and a technique that also appears in Jîn, Reha Erdem’s recent Anatolian fantasy drama.

What Dogan finds is no more the peaceful and luxuriant playground of his childhood but a region over-developed and harnessed by industry with locals fighting officialdom to retain rights to their homeland and cultural heritage and suspicious of strangers. In a cruel twist, he even has to prove that he was born in the region.

Yurt is a paean to the simplicity and serenity of pastoral life in danger of disappearing due to modern progress. A richly contemplative and observational film that examines the feelings of sadness and alienation brought about by increasing urbanisation in contemporary Turkey. MT





Somewhere In Between | Araf (2012) | London Turkish Film Festival 2013

Director/Writer: Yesim Ustaoglu | Cast: Neslihan Atagul, Baris Hachihan, Ozcan Deniz, Nihal Yalcin, Yesemin Conka | 124mins ***  Drama Turkish with subtitles
Another Anatolian story this time set in contemporary Karabuk, an industrial town that seems an appropriate location for its title literally meaning in between heaven and hell or limbo.  Yesim Ustaoglu also tells her story of frustrated dreams and hopes in the middle of a snowswept winter where two young people are stuck in dead-end jobs with grueling schedules and long commutes.
Yesim Ustaoglu is a well-known filmmaker in Turkey as had success with previous features Pandora’s Box (2008) and Waiting For The Clouds (2003) both stories of the human condition seen through difficult circumstances.
Here in Araf, Zehra (Neslihan Atagul) and Olgun (Baris Hacihan) are keen on each other despite their monotonous lives. Then Zehra meets Mahur (Ozcan Deniz) at a wedding and the two become close but face considerable problems due to societal pressures. What follows is an unflinching portrait of a woman trapped in time and place will little choice or personal freedom and as Zehra, Atagul’s is convincing and believable as she scales the highs and lows of her emotions.
Yesim Ustaoglu is undoubtedly a talented filmmaker. That said, her latest film is too long at over just two hours and would have had more impact with the benefit of judicious editing for such emotionally demanding subject matter. MT
Copyright © 2024 Filmuforia