By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
If your exposure to Turkish cinema begins and ends with the zero-budget remakes of American movies that litter the shelves at Kim's, this year's New York Turkish Film Festival is a good opportunity to widen your scope. Focusing on recent films, the fest offers 12 features, nine shorts, and a much too brief two-film tribute to 50-year veteran director Atif Yilmaz.
The entries run the gamut from the abrasively postmodern to the soothingly old-fashioned. Among the latter are Baris Pirhasan's Summer Love, a lush coming-of-age drama with feminist overtones, and Buket Alakus's My Mother, in which a Turkish cleaning woman (the formidable Nursel Koese) in Hamburg bucks Muslim tradition to save her drug-addicted son. It's unadulterated melodrama, but Alakus's assured pacing and humane affinity for working-class women make for diverting uplift. Umit Unal's politically tinged "9" plunges its characters into a claustrophobic urban nightmare. Set in a pitch-black Istanbul police interrogation room, "9"juxtaposes the interviews of six shifty neighbors who may or may not be involved in the murder of a local drifter. The film is masterfully shot (on DV, reportedly a first for Turkey) and edited, and Unal is adept at building queasy Hitchcockian tension.
Bleaker still is Zeki Demirkubuz's Fate, a riff on Camus's The Strangerthat's a festival standout. The film's protagonista less dangerous but no less benumbed version of the novel's Mersaultcomes across a little like Travis Bickle drained of redemptive impulses, and Demirkubuz's dispassionate, beautifully controlled style neatly mirrors the character's near comical enervation.
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