A rite of passage named Sivas
by Camillo de Marco
- VENICE 2014: The lead of director Kaan Mujdeci’s first film is an eleven-year-old and his huge Anatolian shepherd dog
Two years ago young Turkish director Kaan Mujdeci filmed a documentary, Babalar ve ogullari (fathers and sons) about dog fighting in Anatolia. Selected in competition at the Venice Film Festival, his first fiction feature Sivas [+see also:
film profile] is the direct result of his previous work. The main character is Aslan, an eleven-year-old boy (newcomer Dogan Izci) who lives in a very poor rural village in Eastern Turkey, 200 km from the capital Ankara.
Aslan is in love with little Ayse, a schoolmate who will play the princess in the celebrations on 23 April, the children’s festival. When Aslan discovers that their teacher has assigned the role of prince to his rival Osmar (the mayor’s son) he starts to skip classes. He becomes totally absorbed in a huge Anatolian shepherd dog that he picked up half dead after a dog fight.
As strong as lions and capable of standing up against a pack of wolves, the Molossers of this Karabash-Kangal breed have ancient origins, and were formerly used by the Mesopotamia peoples for hunting and war. Aslan helps the dog back on his feet with his care and treatment and defends him from his older brother’s attempts to sell him to the village head. However, although Aslan is an independent and rebellious young boy, he’s also perfectly integrated in a culture in which males must relate to each other using physical force. The director shows us how the child has no trouble in abandoning his old horse in the Anatolian countryside on his father’s orders or in setting his dog against that of his rival. The adults involve him and Sivas in an underground contest between combat dogs in an area close to the capital Ankara. Aslan follows his dog’s victorious destiny and is proud of him. When he can no longer say no to the adults, that’s the moment when he will have definitively lost his childhood innocence.
Filmed with panning shots on the semi snow-clad landscape and close-ups on the actors’ faces that are strictly non-professional, Sivas recounts the relationship between dog and boy as a rite of passage in a male-dominated social structure, tearing to shreds adorable "pet movies" like Belle et Sebastien [+see also:
film profile], The Fox and the Child [+see also:
film profile], My dog Skip. Worth noting is the soundtrack, created by the visual artist and musician from Istanbul Cevdet Erek. The movie is produced by the director with Kaan Film and co-produced by German Coloured Giraffes and Ret Film.
(Translated from Italian)