Turkish films prepare to take Canada

Turkish films prepare to take Canada

Emrah Güler
Turkish films prepare to take Canada As two film festivals kick off in Canada, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and Montreal World Film Festival one week apart, anticipated Turkish films will compete for coveted awards. Auteurs and newcomers, male and female directors will showcase their latest, most recent and debut features. Here’s a look at the Turkish films competing in the two festivals.

The 41st TIFF kicks off on Sept. 8, with the world premiere of director Antoine Fuqua’s reboot of the 1960 classic “The Magnificent Seven,” and will showcase an impressive line-up of nearly 400 films in its run of 11 days. “Compelling stories, global perspectives” highlights this year’s TIFF, of the 35 films in its Contemporary World Cinema Films section. 

Among the films screened under the Contemporary World Cinema Films category are two psychological dramas from two internationally-acclaimed names in Turkish cinema, Yeşim Ustaoğlu and Zeki Demirkubuz. Ustaoğlu’s “Tereddüt” (Clair Obscur) will have its world premiere on Sept. 10, and Demirkubuz’s “Kor” (Ember) will meet the international festival circuit at TIFF.

“Tereddüt” intercuts between the stories of two women on opposite sides of the social spectrum, living in the same city. Şehnaz (Funda Eryiğit) is a psychiatrist with a live-in boyfriend, a relationship that looks on the surface one of equals. Elmas (Ecem Uzun), on the other hand, is trapped in a traditional marriage defined by household chores, unwanted sex and oppression from not only her husband, but her mother-in-law as well.

“As Ustaoğlu intercuts and eventually intersects Şehnaz and Elmas’s stories, we begin to understand that their lives may have more in common than it appears at first glance,” writes Kerri Craddock for TIFF’s website. “By turns pensive and dramatic – even violent – the film asks us to consider the true meaning of liberty.”

Two auteurs in Toronto

The movie that brought Ustaoğlu international recognition was 1999’s “Güneşe Yolculuk” (Journey to the Sun). The haunting look at the Kurdish problem through the eyes of a young Turkish man mistaken as a Kurd went on to win the Best European Film award and the Peace Prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

Her 2008 “Pandora’nın Kutusu” (Pandora’s Box), the story of three middle-aged children as they journey to their hometown and to their mother suffering from Alzheimer’s, won Best Film and Best Actress awards at San Sebastian. And her latest “Araf” (Somewhere in Between) of 2012, a coming-of-age story, competed for the Horizons Award in Venice. 

With a die-hard cult following, auteur Zeki Demirkubuz forays into familiar themes in his latest “Kor,” with protagonists in a moral conundrum, hovering guilt and the darkness in mundane, as everyday lives once again take the backbone of the film. After her husband Cemal (Caner Cindoruk) is arrested in Romania, Emine (Aslıhan Gürbüz) finds herself trying to make ends meet working as a seamstress, with a child in need of surgery. Then Cemal’s former boss (Taner Birsel) enters the scene, ready to help her financially and emotionally. The film takes a darker turn when the jealous husband returns.

Director Demirkubuz’s classics of late 1990s and early 2000s, inspired by Dostoyevsky and Camus, like “Masumiyet” (Innocence), “Üçüncü Sayfa” (Third Page) or “İtiraf” (Confession), portrayed lost lives in a lost city to harrowing effects. The first two parts of his trilogy “Mental Minefields: The Dark Tales,” “Yazgı” (Fate) and “İtiraf,” were shown at the Cannes Film Festival’s “Un Certain Regard” section in 2002.

Turkish films in Montreal

More Turkish films will be competing further east in Canada, at the 40th Montreal World Film Festival, running until Sept. 5. Four films will compete in the festival, with Seren Yüce’s anticipated sophomore feature “Rüzgarda Salınan Nilüfer” (The Swaying Waterlily) competing in World Film Competition and female directors Hande Gözde Kural’s “Toz” (Dust) and Görkem Yeltan’s “Yemekteydik ve Karar Verdim” (We Were Dining and I Decided) competing in the First Films section, as well as Can Yücel’s “Yaktın Beni” (You’ve Burnt Me) competing in the Regard section.

With his 2010 debut feature “Çoğunluk” (Majority), Yüce had wowed audiences and critics alike, winning the Lion of the Future award at Venice, among others. In “Rüzgarda Salınan Nilüfer,” he directs his camera at an urban, upscale couple in their 40s who have forgotten how to communicate and how to bring meaning to their lives. Songül Öden and Tolga Tekin star in the movie.

Gözde Kural’s debut feature “Toz” tells the story of Azra (Öykü Karayel), a young woman from Afghanistan, but born and raised in Istanbul, who takes on the dangerous mission of fulfilling her mother’s wish to be buried in her home country. Despite her siblings’ objections, Azra takes on the journey that will change her life. 

Full-fledged, rounded Turkish female characters will take to the screens in Canada in the coming weeks.