Turkish films shine in Venice line-up

Turkish films shine in Venice line-up

EMRAH GÜLER ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish films shine in Venice line-up

Director Ali Aydın’s debut feature “Küf” (Mold) competing for the Lion of the Future award, an award won two years ago by another Turkish director’s debut feature, Seren Yüce’s “Çoğunluk” (Majority).

With less than a month before the 69th Venice International Film Festival kicks off, the line-up has been announced, surprising moviegoers with only a few of the expected overlaps with the Toronto Film Festival. The festival will open with “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mira Nair, one of the 20 female directors who are going to be debuting their work this year.

The list of films to be screened at the festival came as good news for Turkey, with internationally-acclaimed female director Yeşim Ustaoğlu’s “Araf” (Somewhere in Between) included into the Orrizonti (Horizons) section, and director Ali Aydın’s debut feature “Küf” (Mold) competing for the Lion of the Future award, an award won two years ago by another Turkish director’s debut feature, Seren Yüce’s “Çoğunluk” (Majority).

The inclusion of the two films in the line-up made headlines last weekend, but there was another success story by two other Turkish filmmakers. One of the films to be screened in the Giornate degli Autori (Venice Days) section of the festival is “Inheritance,” a joint production between Israel, France and Turkey. The film is the directorial debut of Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass, renowned for her roles in such films as “Satin Rouge,” “Dawn of the World,” and “Amreeka.” The two Turkish names from among the producers are Faruk Özerten and Ender Sevim. Özerten has channeled his skills to producing after having worked in the U.S. as an assistant director and a producer for one of the episodes of the short-lived TV series “Missing,” starring Ashley Judd.

While this is Yeşim Ustaoğlu’s first time in Venice as a director, she is by no means new to the festival, having served on the jury back in 2002. Ustaoğlu had her directorial debut in 1994 with “İz” (The Trace), but the movie that brought her international recognition was 1999’s “Güneşe Yolculuk” (Journey to the Sun). The film presented a haunting look at the Kurdish problem through the eyes of a young Turkish man mistaken as a Kurd, and went on to win the Best European Film award and the Peace Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as four major awards at the Istanbul Film Festival.

Ustaoğlu’s third feature “Bulutları Beklerken” (Waiting for the Clouds) in 2003, told the story of a woman forced to live with a secret identity for decades, and won the NHK International Filmmakers Award at Sundance, cementing Ustaoğlu’s reputation. “Pandora’nın Kutusu” (Pandora’s Box) of 2008, the story of three middle-aged children journeying to their hometown and to their mother suffering from Alzheimer’s, won the Best Film and Best Actress awards at San Sebastian, opening the way for further international awards. Ustaoğlu’s latest “Araf,” to be screened in Venice, focuses on small lives and big dreams through a love triangle. A coming-of-age story of two of its characters, the film stars famous actor/singer Özcan Deniz. Director Ali Aydın’s “Küf” will be screened in the International Film Critics’ Week, and will compete for the Lion of the

Future. The film is the heart-breaking story of a father’s quest to find his son who has been missing for 18 years.

A brief history of Turkey in Venice

It seems that Turkey has been a regular fixture at Venice in recent years. Two years ago, Seren Yüce’s “Çoğunluk,” with its accurate portrayal of Turkey’s urban middle-class sensibilities, had won the Lion of the Future award. Two years before that, in 2008, Semih Kaplanoğlu’s “Süt” (Milk) had competed for the Golden Lion. The same year, another film from a Turkish name competed for the Golden Lion as well. Turkish/Italian director Ferzan Özpetek’s adaptation of Melania G. Mazzucca’s best-selling Italian novel “Un Giorno perfetto,” the story of the 24-hour period among the members of a family right before a general election, brought Isabella Ferrari the Best Actress award. Before 2008, the last time a Turkish director had competed for the Golden Lion was almost two decades ago, when Yusuf Kurçenli was in the running for his “Karartma Geceleri” (The Blackout Nights) in 1990.