Song of My Mother: story of a Kurdish son
by Vladan Petkovic
- The accomplished first feature film by Turkey’s Erol Mintaş is a touching mother-son story
World-premiering in Sarajevo Film Festival’s competition, Song of My Mother [+see also:
interview: Erol Mintaş
film profile], the debut feature film by Turkish writer-director Erol Mintaş, is a touching story about a mother-son relationship, with the Kurdish issue as a backdrop.
The prologue of the film takes place in a village in Turkish Kurdistan in 1993, when a local teacher is kidnapped by men with no police or military insignia.
Then the story shifts to 2013 and Istanbul’s Tarlabaşı district, home to many Kurdish refugees. There, schoolteacher Ali (Feyyaz Duman, from My Sweet Pepper Land [+see also:
film profile]), in his late 30s, lives with his old mother, Nigar (Zübeyde Ronahi), who is yearning for their old village home. She believes all their friends and relatives have returned to the villages they were forced to move from. Among old cassette tapes, she is trying to find one by a particular dengbej (a traditional Kurdish bard), but to no avail. Her son does his best to make her feel more at ease and stop her from trying to go back to the village – his efforts include an extensive search for the eponymous song and spending a lot of time in her company.
When Ali's Turkish girlfriend, Zeynep (Nesrin Cavadzade, from Yangin Var) announces she is pregnant, he initially barely registers the fact. He attempts to balance his relationship with the two women, but the girlfriend is the one who ends up being neglected. However, she is so devoted to him that she also tries hard to be there for the old woman and goes to great lengths to save the relationship.
This is an accomplished family drama, with the Kurdish issue looming as a shadow over the relationships, hinted at by the prologue. The situation that Ali, Nigar and Zeynep are in is largely a consequence of the problem, but the protagonists never address it openly.
Duman’s restrained acting shows a wide range of emotion, as this kind of story requires, and attractive Cavadzade makes the most of her short screen time – just like her character tries to do in her romantic relationship. But the real star of the film is the non-professional Ronahi, whose naturalness and expressiveness of her striking, wrinkled face make for a wonderfully touching performance.
Although clearly low-budget (its post-production was made possible thanks to the 1000 VOLT Post-Production Award at the Istanbul Film Festival’s Meetings on the Bridge), the film features top-notch technical credits, with outstanding cinematography by George Chiper-Lillemark (Beyond the Hill [+see also:
interview: Emin Alper