Published: 27 January, 2011
by DAN CARRIER
Directed by Asli Ozge
Rating: 3 Out Of 5 Stars
THIS film is a powerful blending of fact and fiction, a documentary in which the lead roles play themselves but are asked to follow stage directions. It’s a strange, inverted fly-on-the-wall style that takes us into the grimy backstreets of a huge city and sheds light on the lives being played out there.
In many ways this is an intriguing insight into the squalid world of urban living. A recent UN report found that more people now live in cities than in rural areas for the first time in human history, and this hustle, bustle, mess and the sheer pain-in-the-neck pressures that come about when we are all piled on top of one another in such an disorganised fashion is writ clear through this film.
It’s hard work as you can’t help but feel terribly sorry for the characters. The love-lorn cop called Murat, searching for his life partner on the internet, ribbed by his colleagues, lonely, and doing a job that is a window on the frustrations of his fellow citizens (can there be a more depressing municipal role in the world than a traffic cop in a big city? I wonder...).
Umut Ilker is a taxi driver, never earning enough to help him realise his own or his wife’s materialistic dreams. There are some chilling moments played out between the two of them, and watching the pair then confide in their friends and be offered advice as to what to do is uncomfortably voyeuristic.
Then there is Fikret Portakal, the itinerant flower seller, dodging between disinterested motorists, offering wilting blooms for sale, and never making the score that will mean he can feed himself properly.
We watch him as he struggles to find job after job after job – a scene of him trying his hand as a waiter in a kebab shop is heartbreaking, he is simply soooo poor at the simple tasks in hand, to make him virtually unemployable. But instead of being offered a comforting wing and patience, you just know he won’t last a day there and will be out on his ear as the shutters are drawn down.
This film started life as a documentary about the people who inhabit the bridge that historically links Europe with Asia, the span over the Bosphorus, an Istanbul staging post, but director Asli Ozge was forced to change tack after the Istanbul police refused to give him permission to use one of their number in the film. Instead, he used actors for the cops, but has still managed to tread a weird and incredibly effective line between documentary and fiction.
Not an easy watch at times, it is a brilliantly made film and, for those interested in Turkey, one section includes a discussion on issues revolving around Kurdistan and the PKK. The gender politics or simply the daily grind of having to rub along with other members of your species in modern cities, this is a wholly worthy effort.