Yurt (2023) Venice Film Festival 2023

September 2nd, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Wri/Dir: Nehir Tuna | Doğa Karakaş, Can Bartu Arslan, Ozan Çelik, Tansu Biçer, Didem Ellialtı, Orhan Güner, Işıltı Su Alyanak | Turkey, Drama 116′

In the 1990s the social divide between religious and secular Turks is creating tensions in this artful feature debut from Nehir Tuna .

It centres on fourteen-year-old Ahmet a truculent teenager from a privileged background who finds himself holed up in a repressive Islamic institution at the behest of his recently-converted father keen to instil traditional Turkish values in his rather spoilt son.

But the atmosphere in the hostel is decidedly hostile. Ahmet’s smart clothes and urbane manners set him apart from the less fortunate pupils he is forced to mix with in the dormitory and one of them reacts by spitting at the young scholar who is far from happy with his new home.

Meeting Hakan, a street-smart kid who knows how to work the Yurt system, is the turning point for Ahmet and together the two get a sense of empowerment and confidence and they start to stand up to the draconian masculine environment of the dormitory amid scenes of quite brutal violence. Tuna gives a real sense of the spiritual but also oppressive religious strictures that shape the boys’ education. But once the two have found their sense of freedom colour floods into the picture in some appealing pastoral settings beside a lake. Together the two of them start to imagine the kind of world they want to live in.

Yurt could be any coming of age buddy movie, but what sets it apart is Florent Hery’s stylish camerawork in glowing black and white and a well-chosen occasional score of classical and folkloric songs. Tuna’s confident direction elevates this to a more resonant and memorable arthouse drama that champions a free-spirited modern Turkey, a world away from the past. MT


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