I had my first taste of a light hearted romantic romp at the HKIFF last night. I saw the Turquaze. It’s a film about the kind of changes in the lives of a trio of Turkish brothers in Flemish Gent in Belgium upon the death of their father, directed and screen-written by Kadir Balci, starring Nihat Altinkava as Ediz, the eldest brotehr Burak Balci as Timur ( the main protagonist of the film), the second brother, Sinan Vanden Eynde as Bora, the 18 year old and youngest of the trio, Charlotte Vandermeersch as Sarah ( the protagonis’s lover) with original music by Bert Ostyn and photography by Ruben Impens.
The film opens with the family visiting a barely breathing old man lying with eyes closed in a hospital bed shortly after which we are shown the three brothers washing with soap bubbles the body of their father, bundling him up with a white linen and transferring his body to a coffin and then the whole family mourning against the sound of Turkish music at the burial after which there was a kind of family meal between the three brothers at the home of Ediz, the eldest brother who is married to Turkish woman. They chit chatted. Ediz asked the second brother Timur if he had a girl friend. Timur was not prepared to answer. He gave as excuse that his father had just died. Then Ediz continued to press and asked if she was a Turk. Timur asked whether it was important. He said it was. His brother didn’t agree. He continued to berate Timur who retorted that he had no right to say what he did. Ediz said he is the eldest brother and could say whatever he wanted. Timur stormed out. Ediz threw his things after him and told him never to come back. In fact, Timur had been going with a beautiful, vivacious young blonde Sarah, a sales clerk at a travel agency. Timur was working as an attendant at an art museum. They made passionate love together and Sarah just adores Timur and feels she’d never have enough of him. Their mother wanted to go back to Turkey to be with her friends and relatives. Ediz asked if his wife Zehra should accompany her to look after her but she said his wife’s place is at his side. Ediz is the kind who thinks that he must continue to uphold Turkish traditions in a foreign land and thinks that an eldest brother’s word is law in a Turkish family. He does not even want his wife to watch television to learn some Flemish spoken in that town. We see snippets of the lives of the three brothers. Ediz works as a mechanic in a Turkish garage and frequently picks up non-Turk women whilst the quiet and contemplativeTimur had studied music at the Academy but couldn’t find job as a musician but finally decided to join a dying local brass band just to have a chance to do what he has always loved: playing music. He plays both the guitar and the trumpet well but couldn’t find any formal Belgian orchestra to hire him, perhaps because of his race. Their youngest brother Bora is a just an unsure teenager trying to find out about himself and is into all the techno gadgets of digital technologies. The three of them together thus represent the full spectrum of respectively old traditional authoritaran, backward looking, middle of the way and all out rejection of Turkish values in the order of age.
Sarah wanted to introduce Timur to his family who had just bought tickets for the weekend at a string quartet concert. Timur attended, Sarah’s mother, an uneducated but talkative woman, eyed him constantly at the concert after whch she asked him all kinds of ignorant and insensitive questions to which Timur replied with sarcasm and left in a quiet rage, shortly after which he returned to Instanbul from whither he originally came. Bora was upset and reproached her mother. After a while, she could bear it no longer and asked around for Timur’s address in Turkey. So Lieve went to the museum to ask one of Timur’s fellow worker who was crazy about Turkey but couldn’t help except to suggest that he ask Bora, who would come up occasional to see Timur. She did but Bora Bora said he did not know. She asked who would know. He suggested Ediz to whom she went. To her surprise, he gave it to her.
We next see Sarah being taken around Instanbul and we have a kind of cinematique traveloque about the exotic touristy Instanbul when Timur show her around. During the visit, Sarah found out that a girl’s whose photo she accidentally previously found in to in Timur’s wallet was not the cousin who had died as he previously told her when he was first asked because she saw her name on a grave. Then he told her that she was about to be married to him when she had a fatal traffic accident just a month before they were supposed to get married. Apparently, he had not yet gotten over his grieving. Sarah who had previously complained to Timur that he merely thought her good enough for making love but never good enough to be introduced his fmaily, asked Timur to go back to Belgium with her. He said he was not ready. She left. He saw her off at the airport. He was confused. He went drinking, got into a brawl and came home with a bruised eye and blood around one of its corners. In the meantime, Ediz continued to fool around with women and Bora also got into trouble with a motor cycle gang and also got beaten up.
Timur then came to a decision. He returned to Belgium. His mother too, found she could no longer adapt to life back in Instanbul, saying that she did not find what she was looking for but when asked what it was, she said, she herself did not know. Back in Ghent, Timur had a talk with Ediz and began to talk back saying that he himself asked him not to go with non-Turkish woman but that Sarah told him when she went to the garage to get his address that she saw him making love to one there. That was his old flame, Lieve. They got into a fight and was stopped by passers by. They walkied away with their arms around each others shoulders. We next see Timur playing the trumpet together with all the members of the local brass band behind him right in front of the somewhat misty glass pane on the top to bottom window of the travel agency where Sarah works. She wipes off the air conditioning water vapors from the otherwise transparent window separating them, all smiles and joy, a suitable final image of what divides them. The film ends.
It was a light film full of flowing images and lush sound about the kind of misunderstandings between native Belgians and immigrant Turks that takes a cross-continent journey to repair: their values and customs are so different: a film about people caught between two cultures, at home in neither. There is some great original music including electronic, rock, cross-overs, flamenco guitar and traditional rhythmic Turkish folk marches and melodies in the film which I enjoy enormously. I’d give it a 2B plus. The ethnic and cultural difficulites could have been explored rather more subtly and in greater depths. As it is, we got a slick flim moving along smoothly and sensuoulsy on the surface just like an ordinary but not particularly exceptional Hollywood commercial film on a cross cultural romance.