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Review: All-In


- Following two seasonal workers in a Turkish all-inclusive hotel, director Volkan Üce delivers an audience-friendly documentary that tackles some topical issues

Review: All-In

The title of the second feature-length documentary by Volkan Üce may at first sound like it's about gambling, and though it really comes from the setting – an all-inclusive hotel on the southern coast of Turkey – it does deal with investing oneself in a job. All-In [+see also:
film profile
world-premiered at CPH:DOX, and screened last week at both Crossing Europe Linz and Bologna's Biografilm.

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The main protagonists, Hakan and Ismail, are among thousands of seasonal workers whom such resorts employ, and we meet them both at their first interviews with the HR manager, Alper. Ismail is only 18, and looking at him, you can tell that he's still just a kid. Although a hairdresser by training, he is hired in the kitchen, at the lowest level – scooping food, making soup and slicing kebab.

Hakan is 25, and he tells Alper he wants a hotel job because it will help him learn English with the idea of going to the USA to make a film, and overcome the social anxiety he has developed by staying at home for years, watching movies and reading books. He is hired as a lifeguard, which lands him a role at the resort's water park, in charge of the slides, one of the busiest places during the entire day.

At the beginning, both guys, hailing from small villages, are fascinated by the luxury, the constant activity and all the colourful guests from around the world... Well, actually, mostly from Russia, the UK and Arab countries. This gives the starry-eyed Ismail the idea that other countries are nicer to live in because foreigners are so polite to him, unlike local tourists who keep complaining.

Hakan, on the other hand, is disappointed when Russian guests don't respond to his wish to discuss Dostoevsky and Pushkin. Neither he nor they really speak English, but an arrogant attitude is enough to bring any romantic ideas crashing to the ground. Here is where he starts wondering whether this job is doing him any good, and for a reflective and sensitive person like Hakan, such a notion can spiral into anxiety and self-doubt.

All-In is a very audience-friendly film, with its dynamic setting and the light-hearted tone in its first half. It touches upon many thought-provoking and topical issues, such as the class divide within a specific context, the gig economy, globalisation and alienation. But thanks to the exquisite selection of protagonists, almost any viewer will find it easy to relate to one or both of them. The film thus delves deep beneath the resort's shiny surface, which is itself tackled in a small, well-placed scene – one serving the same purpose as the iconic severed ear behind the white picket fence in Lynch's Blue Velvet.

Seasoned and versatile DoP Joachim Philippe sure-handedly provides an all-encompassing view of life in the resort, often catching small, comical or slightly melancholic moments that infuse the bigger picture with a definite feeling of the here and now. Els Voorspoels edits with a quick, very fluid tempo, while allowing several scenes of conversation between the staff to progress just long enough to ground the proceedings and bring us closer to the protagonists. The bridge between the second and third act, though, when the mood changes, feels uneven and a bit rushed. Finally, David Boulter and Darius Timmer's predominantly electronic score builds the light-hearted atmosphere that never fully shifts into a pessimistic mood – and the ending of the film feels sobering, rather than depressing.

All-In was co-produced by Belgium's Cassette for Timescapes, Magellan Films and Onomatopee Films, the Netherlands' HALAL and France's Little Big Story. CAT&Docs has the international rights.

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