Rauf: Kind and Soft, but Also a Harsh Film

in 20th Sofia International Film Festival

by Penka Monova

Rauf (Rauf) is a movie about a world, where children are not children anymore, men are absent or at war, and women cannot be real women either. Each and every one in this movie wants to be someone different or somewhere else, but actually they all are very much alike and behave in a similar reflexive manner.

And yet, against the background of a bleak mining paysage in Eastern Turkey, where perpetual war is being fought in the mountains, a growing child would defy those fighting year after year.

At the beginning, Rauf is a student, apparently amongst the smartest, who is however unfairly expelled from classes for he is the only one listening closely to the reminiscences of a veteran from the Turkish ‘just wars’, fought far from the borders of the country. And it is significant that Rauf takes away from the veteran’s narrative his story of survival thanks to his dreams about his loved one’s magnificent body!

Rauf thus decides to quit school and to fall in love. He starts as an apprentice for the local carpenter, where work is a plenty, because of coffin orders. The Kurdish-Turkish conflict seems to flare up only at night in the mountains, but is reflected in the village women’s eyes, waiting for their men to return, which most often happens in coffins.

This ironic, sensitive and tender story follows then Rauf falling in love with the carpenter’s daughter, and deciding to win her heart in a grown-up way – by buying her the pink scarf she has been looking for. Rauf however does not know how pink looks like – the decrepit village houses and the raw mountainous view do not flaunt vivid colors. Besides, Rauf fails to sell a goose at the market to buy the scarf since the potential buyer does not need it anymore. An argument with his mother ensues, complete with refreshing slaps and reproaches for the ruined goose deal. “It got scared, that’s why I didn’t sell it”, Rauf tries to explain in the vein of ancient Eastern wisdom.

War has been turning everyone’s life upside-down for what seems as eternity. Yet it is precisely because of war that Rauf stands up for his doomed love with this beautiful, and far from childish, gesture. A gesture, whose symbolic meaning puts to shame everyone who has succumbed to the routine of war and misery. And by rejecting hope as a form of madness, epitomized by the old woman, who – siting in silence on her crooked chair – has spent an untold number of years staring at the bare mountains, waiting for her son. Yet she unexpectedly breaks her silence to point Rauf to the blossoming pink flowers on the hill, so he can have his funeral in pink.

Rauf is a warm, heartfelt movie, which captures the complexity and contradiction of a world, burdened with a hard past and facing an uncertain present, but where beauty can still find a place.

This is the first feature-length film of two directors, one of Turkish and the other of Kurdish origin, which explains the accurate intricacy of detail. The movie is an austere reflection on our conflicting contemporary lives, captured through a child’s point of view, which turns out to be a most mature one. Moreover, Rauf is the result of a sincere dialogue between two filmmakers, who take a bold stand on issues they obviously care deeply about, and therefore engage in an outspoken and fierce debate about the meaning of human suffering. Suffering that engenders bitterness and anger, but also radiates light and hidden warmth, thinly veiled by black humor.

Without being judgmental, the young directors treat their characters realistically – with love and understanding, but also with fair dose of criticism, by showing their helplessness or foolishness, cowardice or superficiality. And most importantly, by holding them responsible for their own, tragic or dramatic, destinies. Rauf is kind and soft, but also a harsh and even unforgiving film, which brings to book faint-heartedness, superficial patriotism or the readiness to go with the flow. In other words, everyone else, excluding Rauf, who seems to be the only one to bring some sense and love to the world around him.

Edited by Christina Stojanova