‘Ecotopia’ unites villagers against eco-villagers
EMRAH GÜLER ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
‘Ecotopia’ is a raucous comedy bringing together tired city dwellers hoping to return to nature and ignorant villagers trying to find their way between the conditions of rural village life and opportunities to make more cash.The 1975 novel “Ecotopia” – or “Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston” as the full name goes – by American writer Ernest Callenbach describes one of the very first ecological utopias, where people established their alternative society as a reaction to consumption, food full of chemicals and polluted air.
The Ecotopia in the novel was an inspiration to counterculture and the green movement in 1970s America. And it’s also an inspiration to a bus full of city intellectuals, so-called eco-anarchists, who are hoping to establish their own Ecotopia in a village in Turkey’s Aegean region in director Yüksel Aksu’s second feature, “Entelköy Efeköy’e Karşı” (Ecotopia).
Using the form of ancient comedy with the occasional appearance of director Aksu himself playing the darbuka along with a band of misfits, “Ecotopia” is a raucous comedy bringing together tired city dwellers hoping to return to nature and ignorant villagers trying to find their way between the conditions of rural village life and opportunities to make more cash.
In the center of each group are resourceful and charismatic leaders who are happy to initiate a brand-new system of living together; there is even some chemistry between them that is fuelled one night by the full moon and the shared enjoyment of a Turkish folk song. On the villagers’ side is Şahin Irmak’s Ali, the headman of the village, doing his best to think and act modern, but to no avail. On the eco-villagers’ side is Ayşe Bosse’s Katrin (the true spelling is a mystery), a German woman with a broken Turkish accent who long ago made Turkey her home.
Both groups act as caricatures, deliberately constructed to serve the ancient comedy form. The eco-villagers are tree-hugging, politically-correct, “artsy fartsy” types who proudly call themselves “anarchists.” The villagers are well aware that traditional agriculture and rural life are now out and that they have to adapt themselves to the rules of the modern world but have no clue how to do so.
Opening the festival with festivities
The eco-villagers buy the villagers’ donkeys to free them from years of abuse, buy their kilims, saddlebags and all the authentic traditional stuff that is simply junk to the villagers. Donkeys and traditional paraphernalia become a tourist attraction and source of income for the new inhabitants of this small Aegean village.
Things come to a head when the opportunity of a lifetime for the villagers becomes the worst nightmare for the eco-villagers. The coalbeds under the village land bring with it the promise of a coal power plant, creating the possibility of upward mobility in the otherwise stagnant economy of the village. As things heat up between the two groups, surprise cameos heat up the screen.
Former minister Yüksel Yalova plays the culture minister, while Claudia Roth, the co-chair of Germany’s Green Party, plays, well, herself. Another familiar name in the cast is Nejat Yavaşoğulları, the founder and lead singer of the socially conscious rock band Bulutsuzluk Özlemi. Yavaşoğulları also plays himself as one of the eco-villagers. He also adds fuel to the prominent role of music in the movie. The playful rhythms of Aegean music take center stage, transforming the film on many occasions into a celebration of the green lands of the Aegean.
“Ecotopia” was the opening film of the continuing Festival on Wheels last week in Ankara. The director, producers and five of the film’s actors made their entrance into the theater dancing along to the cheerful tunes of Ankara’s famous Şenlik Bandosu (The Festivity Band). In his opening speech, director Aksu told the audience that the filming was all a “raucous time with fun and music,” and that it was “more fun than serious working with everyone from Claudia Roth to some illiterate villagers.” Their fun was definitely infectious, sneaking up from out of the screen and into the audience. Watch “Ecotopia” for a raucous time.