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Romance, Turkish Cinema

Kolkata IFF screening 4: My Marlon and Brando (Turkey 2008)

Ayça Damgacı as the central character in My Marlon and Brando

With sensitive handling by a distributor I think that this film could do well in major markets. I’m sure that it will be appreciated in Turkey and Germany but its story is also universal. It has already won several festival prizes and been well reviewed by Variety and Screen International.

The film’s story is based on the real love affair between a Turkish actor and the Iraqi Kurd she meets on a film set. The opening sequence made me think that it might be a reality TV take-off, but the final sections reminded me strongly of Michael Winterbottom’s Berlin prizewinner, In This World from 2002. The film was co-written and directed by the documentarist Hüseyin Karabey.

The two actors, Ayça and Hama Ali effectively play themselves in a narrative that is presumably only slightly fictionalised. They fall in love but are separated and Hama Ali finds himself in Iraq when the British and Americans invade. He sends Ayça video love letters in which he acts out one of his roles as a comic Iraqi Superman. But Ayça is very much in love and she despairs at the separation and despite her severe lack of funds she determines to travel to Iraq to be with him. The second half of the film then becomes a form of road movie as she experiences great difficulty in making a border crossing from Turkey, eventually travelling to Iran to attempt a crossing over a different border.

I enjoyed the film and especially the performances. Ayça is not a conventionally pretty ‘leading lady’ but she is a character who invites identification. Hama Ali is similarly engaging. Although there are several comic sequences, the latter stages of the narrative are harrowing. The realism of the journey helps in the representation of rural Turkey and the problems a woman travelling alone encounters in conservative communities where she is expected to be veiled.

Turkish Cinema is on something of a roll at the moment and I hope that this film gets picked up for wider distribution. For a European audience it offers real food for thought about the boundaries between sophisticated European communities (which may well include Istanbul) and those in rural ‘Asia Minor’ as we used to call it. As the director points out it reverses the usual narrative of movements from East to West and in doing so shows that the borders between Turkey, Iran and Iraq are irrelevant (and of course the Kurdish people do not have borders for their ‘virtual state’).

A trailer and a detailed Press Pack are available on this sales company website. I do hope the film finds a distributor prepared to promote it properly.

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