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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Turkey / Germany

Nazlı Elif Durlu in post-production with her feature debut, Zuhal

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- In her first feature, the Turkish director deals with the sensitive subject of modern-day solitude by way of a tender and humorous narrative

Nazlı Elif Durlu in post-production with her feature debut, Zuhal
Nihal Yalçın (centre) in Zuhal

Born in Ankara, Turkish writer-filmmaker Nazlı Elif Durlu studied Film and TV in the Netherlands and started her career in the region before returning to her homeland ten years ago. She has written and directed three short films - Trust Me (2009), Later (2012) and The Horse and the Nightingale (2013) - all of which travelled well and screened at various international festivals. As a screenwriter, she wrote one of the stories in Do Not Forget Me Istanbul, which Palestinian helmer Hany Abu-Assad directed. Durlu is currently in post-production with her debut feature, Zuhal, which was presented with an award last week at Istanbul’s 15th Meetings on the Bridge Works in Progress event (see the news), and which she is aiming to premiere later in 2020.

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The titular Zuhal, a 38-year-old lawyer portrayed by Nihal Yalçın, lives alone in her Istanbul apartment. Her well-organised routine is suddenly disturbed by a cat’s meow, which she hears repeatedly. Unable to find the source of the sound, for the first time in years, Zuhal will start talking to and visiting her neighbours, aiming to locate the cat she has been hearing for days. When Zuhal realises that she is the only one to have noticed any meowing and that she is slowly being seen by the others as the lonely “crazy cat-lady”, she decides to call a halt to her investigation in order to protect her reputation as a ”hard-working” and “well-educated” woman. But then, unexpectedly, things change...

Alongside Yalçın, the cast comprises Sadi Celil Cengiz, Serpil Gül, Sencar Sağdıç and Aysan Sümercan. The cinematography is being handled by Swiss DoP Sebastian Weber, while the editing is by Buğra Dedeoğlu and Henrique Cartaxo, with the movie's original score composed by Can Saka and Turgut Mavuk.

The script was co-penned by Durlu and writer-director Ziya Demirel, while the story was inspired by the real-life experience of a woman who could hear a cat in her building, for which all of her neighbours considered her mad. But the absurdity of the character's journey is also representative of how people behave towards one another and how problems are tackled in contemporary Turkish cities. As a project, Zuhal was developed via the Meetings on the Bridge Development Workshop and Co-production Market, the Goethe-Institut’s First Films First initiative, the Mediterranean Film Institute and the Global Media Makers of Film Independent. It was also presented, and won prizes, at Trieste’s When East Meets West (the Flow Post-Production Award) and Thessaloniki’s Agora Crossroads (the Musou Award for audio post-production).

Zuhal is a Turkish-German co-production being staged by Anna Maria Aslanoğlu, of Istanbul-based istos film, in co-production with Jamila Wenske, of Germany’s Achtung Panda!, Tanay Abbasoğlu (TN Yapim), Tolga Karaçelik (Karaçelik Film) and Öykü Canli (Yumurta Yapim Sanat). The film is funded by the Turkish-German Co-Production Development Fund and is fiscally sponsored through Film Independent.

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