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Entries in Turkey (6)

Sunday
Oct292017

Mysterious, Adorable, Purrfect "Kedi"

by Nathaniel R

As a self-confessed crazy cat lady, I'm not sure why it took me so long to see the Turkish documentary Kedi. But it's fitting that I finally saw it late last night. I didn't even realize until this morning that I had ushered in National Cat Day with the streetcats of Istanbul. Since I am not a frequent documentary-watcher (unlike Glenn) I tend to only see them when the subject matter really intrigues me or if awards season comes calling...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Feb212017

Doc Corner: The Istanbul Cats of 'Kedi'

In many ways, it’s only natural that a film like Kedi should come along. The internet loves cats, of course. Even if the internet doesn’t necessarily deserve cats. And a documentary about cats is a no-brainer of a concept (we’ll pretend Lil Bub & Friendz doesn’t exist because it is terrible). The real surprise then isn’t that Kedi exists, but that it quietly subverts any lazy reading that people would no doubt all too easily assign to it. Yes, it is the movie about street cats of Istanbul, but that’s just a hook for audiences whose attentions are being torn this way and that. The truth is that Ceyda Torun’s elegant and enchanting Kedi is so much more.

Even if it was just about the cats – what cats they are! In what can only be described as a particularly unique set of casting, Torun’s film shuffles across the city with vignettes about a collection of individual moggies, following them around as they roam the streets, finding food, fighting, hunting, battling for attention from humans who aren’t so much owners as casual caretakers, and thieving fish from markets and ports.

But, as I said, Kedi is much less interested in just being a film about cats. Rather it is a film that uses cats as a platform to dive into the history of a city, its people, its culture, and questioning what our relationship with cats says about us.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov242016

Turkey's Oscar Submission Wins the APSA

The Asian Pacific Awards, now in their 10th year (and our own Glenn Dunks works for them behind the scenes), and unconcerned with our American Holiday held their ceremony in Brisbane today. (Their awards cover the whole continent so all the countries you might think of as Asian, plus ones you don't like Australia, Russia, etcetera). The hosts were actor David Wenham (Lion, Australia, Lord of the Rings) and international journalist Anjali Rao. The winners (with their trailers) are after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov122015

Foreign Quickies: Mustang, El Club, Ixcanul

Three quick takes on foreign film competitors from the long list of eligible titles, all screened at AFI.

Mustang (France) Opens November 20th in select cities. Cohen Media Group.
Given that 2015's loudest topic may well be the need for fresh cinematic female voices, the French/Turkish production Mustang deserves $100 million blockbuster status instead of art house ghettoization with a $300,000 gross which is what they're infinitely more likely to get. Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven and screenwriter Alice Winocour, two very talented women, team up to tell the riveting story of five spirited sisters living with their hands-off grandma who keep colliding with the confines, literal and metaphoric, of the patriarchy. An innocent 'schools out for the summer' beach romp prompts the end of their adolescent abandon as their horrified conservative uncle steps in to shape them up, train them to be subservient wives, and marry them off to respectable families. Though the premise is reminiscent of Sofia Coppola's elegiac and dreamy Virgin Suicides, the execution is not. Ergüven and Winocour are more physically grounded and rambunctous in their presentation and there is no distancing conceit of viewing the sisters through the eyes of boys. Mustang has successfully rowdy comedic moments, an earthy non-exploitive sensuality, often clever visual framing, and even a hard-won scrappy optimism to balance out its tough reality checks. In short: it's excellent. Let's hope the Foreign Film Oscar Committee agrees. A- 
(See also: Amir's TIFF Review)

 

Ixcanul (Guatemala) -Kino Lorber will distribute in the US. Dates TBA
At the well attended premiere of this memorable Guatemalan Oscar submission (their first!), the director brought out, not one of the actresses, but an older woman dressed in South American finery who was some kind of public official/icon (the applause was so loud I missed her title/name). The takeaway of the intro was that Guatemala has a tiny but newly excited film industry and they're extremely proud of this little movie. As well they should be. Ixcanul (or Volcano) looks at a poverty-stricken Kaqchikel family, living next to an active volcano and working on a coffee plantation. The volcano, in addition to being a beautiful and alien visual backdrop for a movie is also a monolithic wall, blocking their view of the rest of the world; Mexico and the United States, to the North, are more myth than reality. The family hopes to marry their sexually curious daughter off to their comparatively rich boss and thereby lift all their futures. Needless to say, things don't go as planned. While the actions of nearly all the characters are often enraging, Ixcanul is never mean spirited, condemning the exploitation of their ignorance rather than the ignorance itself. (One heartbreaking emergy trip to a nearby city shows the family utterly at the mercy of an untrustworthy translator since they don't even speak Spanish in the mountains.) Bustamante's well crafted film is authentically steeped in a nearly alien culture but its humanity is entirely familiar. B

 

El Club (Chile) - Music Box Films will distribute in the US. Dates TBA
My first encounter with the acclaimed director Pablo Larrain was the violent Tony Manero, a film about a Chilean sociopath obsessed with winning a Saturday Night Fever lookalike contest. It was altogether unsavory and though the director's command was evident I couldn't wait for it to end. The second was the wondrous No, starring Gael García Bernal as an unlikely hero who helps rid his country of their dictator through an unlikely ad campaign. Though not without its necessarily dark moments -- all the Larrain films I've seen take place during the Pinochet era in Chile -- it was an exuberant, moving, and technically amazing film which I was happy to champion; it went on to be nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. The third encounter is, sadly, more reminiscent of the first in its absolute mandate to rub your face, artfully, in brutal shit.

The film begins deceptively as a mellow observational drama about a strange retirement community in a yellow house by the sea. Shortly, though, the curtain of ambiguity is lifted by an uninvited drunk stranger who stands outside the house spewing a hostel tirade of obscenities. The house, you immediately realize, is a shelter/prison for criminal priests that the Catholic Church is hiding away and the man shouting was one of their victims, repeatedly raped as a young boy. The depressing reveal deepens when you realizes that there are houses like this all over the world. 

Fans of disturbing cinema might admire Larraîn's chutzpah but everyone else should steer clear. Though the film has strong performances, particularly Antonia Zegers as a despicable nun and Marcelo Alonso as a remarkably stone-faced priest sent to assess the inhabitants of the house, it's a tough sit through spiritual rationalization, disturbing psychologies, and actual brutality [SPOILER WARNING] Animals are viciously killed in the film -- albeit just barely off camera -- and I never would have seen it if I had known. [/SPOILER]. Even the resolution, which could be read as spiritually uplifting is ambiguous; it played for me more like a sick pitch-black joke about "penance" and "redemption". (I will be wary of seeing another Larraîn film despite my love for No.) No Rating.

Saturday
May232015

Potential Foreign Oscar Submissions from Cannes

While most of the world obsesses on Eurovision today, we'll stayed obsessed with France. The Cannes festival ends tomorrow with the awards ceremony and the biggies like the Palme D'Or (the overall winner) Best Actress (or 'The Anti-Marion' as it will surely soon be retitled since she's in the mix every single year but never wins) and the Camera D'Or (first film). But until tomorrow afternoon when we hear those honors, we've still got plenty to discuss including potential Oscar submissions (I must soon create those massive foreign submission charts) and the first wave of jury prizes.

UN CERTAIN REGARD
Isabella Rossellini's jury has handed out their prizes with this statement from Rossellini

We, the jury, would like to thank the Festival de Cannes for inviting us to be part of the Jury for Un Certain Regard. The experience of watching nineteen films from twenty-one countries was memorable. It was like taking a flight over our Planet and its inhabitants… Any anthropologist would be envious of us. We would like in particular to thank Thierry Frémaux and his team for their incredible kindness. I cannot refrain from expressing also my personal gratitude to the Festival for having chosen my mother Ingrid Bergman for the poster of the 68th edition of this festival. Mamma seems to hovered over all of us, filmmakers and film lovers, as a guardian angel. Thank you.

Here's a roundup of prizes including many potential Oscar submissions for Best Foreign Language Film...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Mar302015

Turkey Does Not Heart Julianne

It's your weekly reminder that Julianne Moore won an Oscar! And also a news story that sounds like sketch comedy. Thanks to Benji for this heads up that the universe is keeping Juli humble. Seems she filmed a commercial - part of a series of commercials using celebrities to promote tourism in Turkey.

Unfortunately the powers that be in The Culture and Tourism Ministry of Turkey have rejected the commercial she filmed for "poor acting" and cited her "depressive persona" as a concern. They offered her a chance to reshoot but she declined and they scrapped the commercial.

Someone somewhere leak this commercial. We beg you! You all know we love Julianne far Moore than is healthy but this story is so weird it's funny, don't you think? Especially since she surely got paid regardless and she just won an Oscar. (In case you hadn't heard.)