The auteur strikes back in four great entries at the Vancouver Turkish Film Festival:
The Turkish Way
Spain is the current gastronomic centre of the universe, but where do we look for the next food revolution? “Joan Roca thinks that it’s going to be Turkey,” says VTFF director Hakan Burcuoğlu. “There are a lot of dead Romans in the soil, so it makes for great wine, great produce, and great crops.” That’s the premise, more or less, of The Turkish Way, which follows the Michelin three-star winner Roca and his two brothers on a tour of Turkish cuisine, a perfumed clash of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim food cultures depicted here as transcendentally inspiring to the visiting Spaniards. Prepare to see doner kebabs and baklava in an entirely new light. A fantastic opener to the festival, and not just because Turkish culinary enfant terrible Maksut Aşkar will be in attendance.
Friday, November 25 (reception at 7 p.m.; film at 8:30 p.m.)
Captivating nonactor Selim Kaya plays 12-year-old Ali, recently made fatherless after a suspicious work accident and living in dire poverty with his mother. The quietly resourceful preteen is saving up for the blue bicycle of the title, but when his school prefect (and secret crush) is mysteriously deposed by the headmaster, Ali redirects his considerable smarts into an anonymous campaign of resistance against an imperious authority that he can’t understand. In this triple-crown winner at the International Antalya Film Festival, realism and enchantment combine to deliver a political allegory that could have been too obvious in less sensitive hands.
Saturday, November 26 (8:30 p.m.)
Imagine Fritz the Cat with a seriously violent streak, and you’ll arrive at something like Shero, the feline anti-Shero of this devoutly profane animated spectacle, first seen taking a dump on a human toilet while he flicks his butts into the nearby litter tray. Things start to go wrong when his pimp friend urges Shero to hump a local Siamese, a caper that ends with one dead housecat and a vengeful human zombie. (It’s complicated.) The unexpected arrival of an illegitimate son and a distinct lack of booze don’t help. If your pussy does the dog, this wild blast of bad taste should have your tail standing at attention.
Saturday, November 26 (10:20 p.m.)
Cold of Kalandar
Turkey’s Oscar entry for 2017 marks the emergence of an astonishing talent in director Mustafa Kara. Remarkably, cinematographers Cevahir Sahin and Kürsat Üresin are hardly any more experienced. This team spent an entire year on a remote hillside of the barely hospitable Black Sea region, capturing the tale of a family who eke out an existence in a sloping stone hut while father Mehmet searches for gold or tries to stave off creditors with a big win at the bullfight. Director Kara leavens the stereotypical Turkish art-house feel for ponderous pacing (much as we love that) with just a touch of the surreal. Nonactor Haydar Sisman, who will be in attendance for the screening, keeps us riveted beyond the film’s epic compositions as the sad dreamer, Mehmet.
Sunday, November 27 (6 p.m.)