Untold Stories

in 22nd Istanbul Film Festival

by Zeynep Tul Akbal

This year’s 22nd International Istanbul Film Festival had approximately 200 films and I was able to see 58 of them in two weeks. I always think of film festivals as being special temporal and spatial parentheses, in which many different faces and voices come across, have emerged as heteroglossia each time whenever they take place. For the spectator, the experience goes beyond the spectatorship in this special time and space. In this imaginary public square conventional film watching is turning into the Bakhtianian carnavelesque just because the usual characteristics of identification and catharsis are broken during this different perception of time. Films take on their own dialogical spaces through which there is the opportunity to gain a critical perspective. And I always believe that this particular experience also gives us an opportunity to see the world around us by telling stories from all around the world. From their way of story telling to the innovations and different techniques about how these films are made, to what they really talk about, all open a space for us in which we can see the world sociologically as well.

This year, I have the impression of a new state of being, which has made itself visible in many films. Something, I might call ‘being out of focus’, was very common. Directors and scriptwriters were not clear about what their films were about or most probably they did not want to have a point or focus. They started with a story and ended up with another; they created characters and symbols with no purpose. No contexts were necessary; characters, events, even the ‘poetics’ kept altering in their films. So, I think the project of postmodernism, with the death of everything, has become successful in the end. Now the state of being in nowhere but just being only now is a widespread experience.

Yet, although this seemed to be very popular or dominant; there was another track, which has been going on for a long time and I consider much more communicative. Among them the street-life experience tales, which I have been studying for quite some time are worth mentioning. Ordinary people’s harsh tales sometimes come together in episodic and/ or simultaneous narratives in these films. Some of them I had the opportunity to see in the first week, before the competition week started, are “Marie- Jo and Her Two Lovers” (Guédiguian, 2002, France), “Morven Callar” (Ramsay, 2002, UK & Canada), “Women’s Prison” (Hekmat, 2002, Iran), “Ten” (Kiarostami, 2002, Iran), Little Bit of April (Ozge, 2002, Germany), “Sophiiie” (Hofmann, 2002, Germany), “Lilya 4-Ever” (Moodysson, 2002, Sweden), “Carnage” (Gleize, 2002, Spain), “Unknown Pleasures” (Zhang-Ke, 2002 China), “All or Nothing” (Leigh, 2002, UK) “Grill Point” (Dressen, 2002, Germany), “City of God” (Meirelles, 2002, Brazil).

Particularly “Lilya 4-Ever”, about two teenagers in some time and somewhere in Russia, left alone by their families and the society where no one can help the other, and the plain hunger and nothingness seem to remain forever, was, may be, the toughest one to digest. As it clearly tells us no one can keep his or her hands clean. We all have our share in the causes of all the pain and suffering that take place on every corner of the world; and just because you are not part of it and only watch it you cannot keep yourself innocent or excluded; nobody knows who will be the next. “City of God” was like a crescendo for all of them with its editing, story telling, cinematography, and the sociological and documentary style approach. It was showing us three decades of the city outskirts of Rio and the children of favelas who are born into drugs, arms, and crime in which there exists no way out.