"Men on the Bridge", "Children of the Other Side", "Black Dogs Barking": Clinging To Life In The Poor Suburbs By Burçin S. Yalçın

in 28th Istanbul International Film Festival

by Burçin Yalçin

In the national competition of the 28th Istanbul Film Festival, three films shared a common theme: The shattered hopes of the lost class living in Istanbul’s poor neighbourhoods.

Men on the Bridge (Köprüdekìler), a drama which won the festival’s “Golden Tulip” prize for the Best Turkish Film, follows a few desperate protagonists working on the Bosporus Bridge. Fikret, an illegal rose-vendor, Umut, a taxi driver, and Murat, a traffic police officer, live in the suburbs of Istanbul, their paths crossing daily in the rush-hour traffic jam on the bridge. Director Asli Özge, who shot her first feature film, constructs a simple form and almost never lets these three stories connect — except in a few scenes on the bridge.

A movie with a similar theme, Aydin Bulut’s feature debut Children of the Other Side (Baska semtìn çocuklari) won the People’s Choice Award, sponsored by “Radikal” newspaper. The plot traces a body dumped in a street in Gaziosmanpasa District. The victim’s elder brother, fresh from his military service, pursues the killer. The movie derives benefit from long flashbacks that take us through the victim’s life. He wishes to go to America with his girlfriend and slides into rage, desperation and betrayal for the sake of this “dream”. Desperation is the key word. There are numerous chivalrous characters — enough to damage the story. And eventually, you figure out our protagonist is the victim.

In addition to these two movies, Black Dogs Barking (Kara köpekler havlarken), a crime drama written, edited and directed by short filmmakers Mehmet Bahadir Er and Ukrainian Maryna Gorbach in their feature debut, takes place in another poor suburb district, Kagithane, where unearned income is an endemic illusion for the young inhabitants.

Like Children of the Other Side, Black Dogs Barking also tells the story of two young men, Selim and Çaça, who are pursuing mall-security jobs. The jackals of the underworld are their major obstacle. Especially these two movies look like each other with their plots, protagonists and images. Even though Er and Gorbach’s HD images have some specific dynamism, the latter’s cinematography is hampered by some colour-correction problems.

For sure, the travails of keeping up in a big city like Istanbul — especially for the poor — can be ended with death. If not, life is a hopeless disappointment. Among these three movies, only Men on the Bridge offers some clemency to its protagonists. But none of them offers any solution for our consideration. Veysel (Ismail Hacioglu), the victim of Children of the Other Side, says to his girlfriend in a cinematically deserted junkyard that there must be another place to live and die. Unfortunately, in these movies, there is not.