Sunday, September 10, 2006



Wish Me Luck / Bana Sans Dile… (Turkey)
A Muhtesem Film production. (International sales: MFP, Istanbul.) Produced by Irfan Tozum. Directed, written by Cagan Irmak.
Camera (color), Cenap Cevahir; editor, Erhan Oz; music, Aria; art director, Remzi Evren. Reviewed on videocassette, London, May 6, 2002. (In Istanbul Film Festival, national competition.) Running time: 90 MIN.
Cast: Riza Kocaoglu, Deniz Ugur, Volkan Severcan, Nilgun Belgun, Berke Uzrek, Guler Okten, Kutay Kokturk, Basak Dasman, Mert Akca, Melisa Sozen, Ismail Hacioglu, Aysun Metiner, Fuat Onan, Oya Semerci

A put-upon high school student holds his class hostage at gunpoint in "Wish Me Luck," a partly successful attempt at something new in Turkish cinema -- crossing drama, comedy and action in a hot-button storyline. Film is flawed by its wavering tone, plus an ending that's obvious a mile off, but this first feature by writer-director Cagan Irmak, who cut his teeth on TV movies, shows a filmmaker with real mainstream potential.
Bahadir (Riza Kocaoglu) is a slightly geeky, middle-class kid raised by a distant, self-obsessed mother. When he sticks up his own class one day, and the media and police gather outside, he forces his schoolmates to recount their own hang-ups and repressions, broadcast to the outside world on a PA system. The personal revelations are a mixed bunch: One boy is afraid of the dark, another joined a group of satanists, a snooty girl turns out to be the class tart, and the class bully was beaten by his own father. The media, especially, comes in for some obvious parody, but in general perfs by the younger players keep the pic on course. Technically, it's fine.

Summer Love / O Da Beni Seviyor (Turkey-Hungary)
A Warner Bros. Turkey release of a Filma-Cass presentation of a Filma-Cass, Kedi Film (Turkey)/Objektiv Film Studio (Hungary) production, with support of Efes Pilsen, Turkish Culture Ministry. (International sales: Warner Bros., Istanbul.) Produced by Mine Vargi. Executive producer, Yavuz Bayraktaroglu. Co-producer, Janos Rozsa. Directed by Baris Pirhasan. Screenplay, Gul Dirican, Pirhasan.
Camera (color), Juergen Juerges; editor, Adnan Elial; music, Mare Nostrum, Ulas Ozdemir; art director, Mustafa Ziya Ulkenciler. Reviewed on videocassette, London, May 5, 2002. (In Istanbul Film Festival, national competition.) Running time: 106 MIN.
Cast: Ece Eksi, Lale Mansur, Luk Piyes, Ayla Algan, Aysenil Samlioglu, Burak Sergen, Cezmi Baskin, Hale Akinci, Kemal Inci, Serra Yilmaz, Serif Sezer, Taner Birsel, Tomris Incer, Tuncel Kurtiz, Ugur Polat, Ali Okcelik, Elif Can, Esin Aslan, Esma Madra, Meri Israel, Yunus Sirinsoy.
(Turkish dialogue.)
Charming but slight, "Summer Love" is what its title promises -- a beautifully shot coming-of-ager centered on a 12-year-old girl in provincial southeast Turkey. Well played by a large cast of veteran stage talents and younger thesps, pic positively drips with sumptuous landscapes and ethnic color (especially local Alawi culture), signaling potentially healthy sales on European TV channels.
It's summer '73, in the city of Malatya, and rebellious young beanpole Esma Hanim (Ece Eksi), following disastrous grades, is sent off to the rural home of her father's army buddy while the rest of her family heads for the seaside. Among all the ornery old country women, Esma finds a soulmate in Saliha (Lale Mansur), who rebelled against an arranged marriage -- and a potential boyfriend in handsome tractor driver Huseyin (Cologne-born Luk Piyes); but some hard life lessons await her. Piyes is restrained after his debut as a cocky young hoodlum in Lars Becker's "Kanak Attack," but it's the young Eksi (like a young, prettier Charlotte Gainsbourg) and the mellow Mansur who give the film some heart beneath the rich visuals by German d.p. Juergen Juerges ("Code Unknown").

Maruf (Turkey)
A Yeni Sinemacilik production. (International sales: Ozen Film, Istanbul.) Produced by Sevil Cakar, Onder Cakar. Directed by Serdar Akar.
Screenplay, Akar, Onder Cakar. Camera (color), Mehmet Aksin; editor, Nevzat Disiacik; music, Replikas; art director, Turgay Kurtulus. Reviewed on videocassette, London, May 6, 2002. (In Istanbul Film Festival, national competition.) Original title: Maruf. Running time: 103 MIN.Cast: Meltem Cumbul, Ruhi Sari, Nihat Ileri, Arzu Os, Emine Sans Umar.
Serdar Akar, whose well-observed sophomore feature, "Offside," drew some attention on the fest circuit, returns with the rather more conventional "Maruf," a drama of traditional conflicts set in a stony east Anatolian village. Some limited festival play looks likely, plus attention from specialized Eurowebs looking for "exotic," socially conscious fare.
Set in a small hillside community, pic centers on Maruf (Ruhi Sari), an uncomplicated guy who just wants to marry the sweet girl he secretly meets for occasional R&R. However, as complications mount and long-established customs come into play, Maruf's frustrations rise to boiling point with his domineering uncle. Pic is solidly shot and acted, with a very real sense of place (close to Mardin, near the Syrian border) and only some fantasy sequences seeming ill-judged. Its central theme, however, contains little that's new compared with dozens of other rural Turkish movies.

The Waterfall / Sellale (Turkey)
An IFR presentation of a Selale production in association with Ecco Partners. (International sales: IFR, Istanbul.) Produced by Ezel Akay, Yalcin Kilic. Executive producers, Ufuk Ahiska, Akay, Serdar Tahiroglu, Ziya Oner, Levent Kefik, Dominique M. Robinson. Directed, written by Semir Aslanyurek.
Camera (color), Hayk Kirakosyan; editors, Senad Preseva, Mustafa Preseva; music, Sunay Ozgur; art director, Levent Uysal; sound (Dolby Digital), Burak Akbulut; sound designer, Ender Akay. Reviewed on videocassette, London, May 4, 2002. (In Istanbul Film Festival, national competition.) Running time: 120 MIN.
Cast: Hulya Kocyigit, Tuncel Kurtiz, Aykut Oray, Ali Surmeli, Enis Aslanyurek, Zuhal Tatlicioglu, Canan Hosgor, Ege Aydan, Fikret Kuskan, Nurgul Yesilcay, Savas Yurttas.

A strong cast, mixing youngsters with veterans, and smooth production values make "The Waterfall" a consistently entertaining, if hardly original, period dramedy. Full of colorful characters in a small village during a watershed in recent Turkish history, picture is a solid entry for film weeks and TV programmers looking for accessible ethnic fare.
Setting is Harbiye, a hill suburb just south of Antakya (modern Antioch) in southeast Turkey; period is May '60, when political feelings were running high in the country and the army was about to step in to curb abuses of power by the ruling Democratic Party. Central character is Cemal (Enis Aslanyurek), a playful kid who's apprenticed to a larger-than-life barber, Selim (Tuncel Kurtiz), who has an opinion on everything from Marshall Aid through Turkish troops being sent to Korea, to local schoolchildren being forced to drink U.S. Army milk.
Cemal's father, Yusuf (Aykut Oray), a construction foreman, is a staunch democrat and anti-communist; Cemal's uncle, Suleyman (Ali Surmeli), is the political opposite. Though they live in adjoining houses, the two men haven't spoken for years and have even built a wall between them in the shared courtyard. However, their wives, Semra (Hulya Kocyigit) and Cemile (Canan Hosgor), get on just fine.

Large cast includes the full spectrum of political views and lively characters (including a husband who's always chasing his promiscuous young wife with a cleaver), plus small events that momentarily set villager against villager. When the local waterfall -- where women traditionally go to recount their dreams -- is dynamited during construction of a new factory, things come to a head between corrupt local businessmen and conservative locals.

Very professionally mounted, with an engaging score by Sunay Ozgur, pic keeps a fine balance between its kid cast (both at home and at school) and older characters. Among the latter, Kurtiz dominates whenever he's onscreen as the bald, loudmouthed barber with a secret passion for ethnic flutes and Josef Stalin; Oray and Surmeli are nicely matched as the warring brothers; and the veteran Kocyigit, one of Turkish cinema's most distinguished actresses, provides quiet support throughout as Cemal's mom.

9 (Turkey)
A Haluk Bener production. (International sales: PTT Films, Istanbul/Keriman Ulusoy, Paris.) Produced by Haluk Bener, Aydin Sarioglu, Umit Unal. Directed, written by Umit Unal.Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Aydin Sarioglu; editor, Ismail "Niko" Canlisoy; music, ZeN; art director, Haluk Bener. Reviewed on videocassette, London, May 4, 2002. (In Istanbul Film Festival, national competition.) Running time: 94 MIN
Cast: Ali Poyrazoglu, Cezmi Baskin, Fikret Kuskan, Ozan Guven, Rafa Radomisli, Serra Yilmaz, Fuat Onan, Sezgin Devran, Esin Pervane.

Turkey's first DV-to-35mm feature, shot in Istanbul last August, "9" is a smart idea that's about an hour too long. An investigation into a killing through a series of cross-cut interviews with suspects, this first pic by Umit Unal, a scripter and novelist who also makes TV commercials, would seem better suited to the written word or legit stage, although it did inexplicably win best picture honors in the Turkish national competition. As a movie, its restless, repetitive style soon palls, limiting its future to specialized fests and vid-centered sidebars.
Entire pic is set in a dingy basement room (No. 9) where unseen interrogators question and film six inhabitants of a quiet district where a beautiful vagrant, nicknamed "Spike," was found raped and killed, her face smashed with a rock. In separate sessions, the interviewees repeatedly contradict, try to blame and trash each other, revealing, in the words of one, "a river of hot lava beneath the dusty, dirty street." Strong cast is led by Rafa Radomisli as a street bum nicknamed "The American," Ali Poyrazoglu as a photo-shop owner, and Fikret Kuskan as an antsy young butcher. As well as crosscutting between interviews, pic also briefly flashes back to actual events.

The Photograph /Fotograf (Turkey)

A Mesopotamia Culture Centre (Cinema Dept.) release and production, with participation of Hubert Bals Fund and Oz Batmanlilar Travel. (International sales: MCC, Istanbul.) Directed, written by Kazim Oz.
Camera (color), Ercan Ozkan; editors, Oz, Savas Boyraz, Ozkan Kucuk, Zulfiye Dolu; music, Mustafa Biber; art director, Ozkan Kucuk. Reviewed on videocassette, London, May 4, 2002. (In Istanbul Film Festival, national competition.) Running time: 67 MIN.
Cast: Feyyaz Duman, Nazmi Kirik, Mizgin Kapazan, Muhlis Asan, Ozcan Alper, Zulfiye Dolu, Mehmet Ali Oz, Ali Koroglu, Sami Mermer, Sercan Yldiz, Yekta Balta.

Though little more than an hour long, "The Photograph" is as eloquent a snapshot of the ironies of civil conflict as one could hope to find. The longest work to date by young director Kazim Oz, who in the past five years has largely done short docus, pic already has played extensively during the past year on the B-festival circuit, but deserves a higher platform. Programming outside festivals reps a problem, though specialized events and webs should respond.
Oz was assistant director on Yesim Ustaoglu's "Journey to the Sun" (1999), and there are similarities in "Sun" and the odyssey eastwards by "Photograph's" central protagonists, as well as in both pics' quietly purposeful feel. However, where Ustaoglu's pic was a fully developed dramatic feature centered on Turkish-Kurdish friendship, Oz's is more like a haiku.
Serene opening sees a long-distance luxury coach pull into Istanbul's harbor area, where a young man, who's been talking desultorily to a woman (Mizgin Kapazan), climbs on board. He sits next to a younger, rather tightly-wound guy and the two gradually start a conversation. Only some way into the movie does the viewer learn the former is called Ali (Nazmi Kirik) and the latter Faruk (Feyyaz Duman).

Both are traveling to eastern Turkey and both claim to be going to see relatives, Ali in Diyarbakir, Faruk in Tunceli. Ali is peaceful and relaxed, and says he's a law student; Faruk is tense, and plays with his musical cigarette lighter as the coach travels through the night and next day, past increasing roadblocks for ID checks by the army.

In fact, one of the two is a Turkish army conscript drafted to the east of the country; the other is a Kurdish terrorist traveling incognito. They part on the best of terms, ignorant of each other's reality, but their destinies are soon to cross on the side of a snowy mountain.

Oz calls his film a study in "the possibility of friendship," and without pushing its central conceit too far, he makes a brief but lucid statement on the theme, helped by fine, understated perfs by the two leads. Suffused with a half-real, half-dreamlike tone, and catching the hypnotic quality of long-distance journeys, film is capped by a tour-de-force, single take that links Faruk and Ali together again.

Here, and in other elaborate shots (such as conscripts being registered), Oz looks like a talent to watch. Pic's one misjudgment is a pretentious ending that undercuts the foregoing simplicity.

Shot in June 2000 on Super-16 and for almost no money, pic was self-distributed in over eight Turkish cities last year, clocking some 25,000 admissions.

Tech credits in the 35mm blowup are fine, with a notable score by Mustafa Biber that adds atmosphere to Ercan Ozkan's clean lensing. Credits, notably, are all in Kurdish.

Innowhereland / Hicbiryerde (Turkey-Germany)
A Warner Bros. Turkey release of a Mine Film (Turkey)/Luna Film (Germany) production. (International sales: Media Luna, Cologne.) Produced by Zeynep Ozbatur, Kadri Yurdatap. Co-producer, Gudrun Ruzickova-Steiner. Directed, written by Tayfun Pirselimoglu.
Camera (color), Colin Mounier; editors, Sevket Uysal, Hamdi Deniz; music, Cengiz Onural; art director, Natali Yeres; sound (Dolby), Nuh Mete Deniz; assistant director, Nur Arik. Reviewed on videocassette, London, May 5, 2002. (In Istanbul Film Festival, national competition.) Running time: 94 MIN.
Cast: Zuhal Olcay, Michael Mendl, Parkan Ozturan, Meral Okay, Ruhi San, Devin Ozgur Cinar, Cezmi Baskin, Seyhsuvar Aktas, Selcuk Uluerguven, Ugurtan Sayiner, Halil Kumova.

Refusing to believe her missing son is dead, a mother journeys to the wilds of Anatolia in "Innowhereland," a borderline pretentious, somewhat retro slice of "committed" Turkish cinema given dignity and humanity by a terrific lead perf from Zuhal Olcay. First feature by painter-cum-novelist Tayfun Pirselimoglu looks likely to secure some festival exposure, with specialized TV slots to follow.
A host of movies during the past two decades have dealt with Turkey's "missing" people, estimated by some to total roughly 3,000, though no exact figure exists. Some disappeared while under police custody, others vanished "normally," with only half ever found. Though a series of pre-credit captions informs that the film is about missing people in general, the main character, Sukran (Olcay), was once married to a Kurdish activist, and it's made fairly clear that her son was mixed up in some kind of anti-government activity.
An attractive woman in her 40s who works in a railroad ticket office, Sukran obsessively pursues every avenue of hope that her son Veysel is alive. Still insisting he was apolitical and "clean," unlike her late husband, she clashes with Veysel's fiancee, Sule (Devin Ozgur Cinar), who claims he's now dead.

After thinking she's spotted Veysel in a crowd, Sukran follows a lead from a friend (Parkan Ozturan) and travels to the extreme east of the country, to the Kurdish heartland, hoping to find him. Arriving in the ancient town of Mardin, close to the Syrian border, she's met with hostility and bureaucratic indifference, until some people claim to know where he's hiding.

There's more than a hint of Turkish helmer Omer Kavur in Pirselimoglu's cool, semi-abstract style and use of far-flung, photogenic locations in which to set personal odysseys. However, largely thanks to Olcay's shaded playing of a potentially single-note role, plus some neat character parts (Cezmi Baskin as a movie projectionist, Ugurtan Sayiner as a hotel receptionist), pic just about escapes art-movie self-consciousness.

Fulfilling coproduction demands rather than dramatic ones, vet Michael Mendl briefly pops up as a Turkish-speaking German journalist. And though the film's tempo remains measured and its content slim, the switch halfway to Mardin at least makes matters easy on the eye in experienced French d.p. Colin Mounier's tasty lensing of the picturesque town.

Olcay won best actress at the Istanbul fest.

Away From Home / Herkes Kendi Evinde (Turkey)
A Haylazz production. (International sales: Keriman Ulas Ulusoy, Istanbul.) Produced by Ali T. Bilgen, Leyla Ozalp, Semih Kaplanoglu, Levent Onan. Directed by Semih Kaplanoglu. Screenplay, Kaplanoglu, Ozden Cankaya, Serpil Kirel.
Camera (color), Haik Kirakossian; editors, Hakan Akol, Onur Tan; music, Selim Atakan; art director, Cagla Ormanlar; sound (Dolby Digital), Ismail Karadas. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 17, 2001. Running time: 105 MIN.
Cast: Tolga Cevik, Erol Keskin, Anna Bielska.(Turkish, Russian and English dialogue.)

A sensitively directed but overly predictable tale of three characters in search of, or running away from, their roots, "Away From Home" is sporadically likable until it gets lost in an ending that wallows in downbeat realism. On the plus side, TV director Semih Kaplanoglu brings a strong feeling for nuanced characters and film technique to his feature bow -- which was co-winner (with Serdar Akar's "Offside") of the Best Turkish Film national prize at this year's Istanbul festival -- and pic's story ranges picturesquely from Istanbul to the Turkish countryside. Some offshore ancillary biz is possible.
Story is narrated by 26-year-old Selim (Tolga Cevik), who has been left alone in the world after his parents' death. He impulsively enters the "lottery" by which the U.S. immigration authorities randomly select future American citizens and, much to his surprise, he "wins." He decides to move to New York City at the cost of breaking up with his good-looking girlfriend and selling a family olive grove in Alacati.
At this point, Selim's aged uncle, Nasuhi (Erol Keskin), suddenly turns up after 50 years in Russia. A confirmed Communist, he survived a Stalinist labor camp and WWII before ending up on a state apple farm. Now he's come back to die in the olive grove of his youth. This eccentric self-made man soon becomes the film's moral center.

Third character is a Russian girl, Olga (Anna Bielska), whom Nasuhi finds beaten up on a road after her first attempt at prostitution. Though emotionally quite mature (at least, compared with Selim), she has become extremely vulnerable from the strain of searching for her missing father, a sea captain.

At Nasuhi's insistence, the trio take off for the fabled olive grove. They find the old stone house and fields in desperate need of repair, which Nasuhi plunges into at once. Selim doesn't know how to tell him that a three-way return to nature isn't going to happen, and the healing journey that the film seems to propose crumbles before the young man's uncertainty. In the greedy building boom sweeping Turkey, pic asserts, roots and homeland have been forgotten.

Script's initial awkwardness in twining the character strands together -- particular Olga, who wanders around Istanbul solo for some time -- finally disappears when the three hit the road. However, as the supposed narrator, Cevik's Selim fades in and out, often dropped for entire scenes. Kaplanoglu shows a fondness for technical devices like fades, slow motion and offscreen sound, used sparingly and well.

(posted june 08,2002)

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