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SARAJEVO 2023 Documentary Competition

Review: A Day, 365 Hours


- Despite the multitude of approaches and styles employed, Eylem Kaftan manages to send a clear message about domestic abuse in Turkey with her documentary

Review: A Day, 365 Hours

The sexual abuse of children within the family is a taboo in every society, but the more conservative and oppressive the society is, the harder it gets to even talk about such a topic. Eylem Kaftan’s documentary A Day, 365 Hours, world-premiering in the Documentary Competition programme of Sarajevo, deals with such cases in Turkey through the story of two women who decided to take legal action and fight their abusive fathers.

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Structured into three chapters, the film tells the story of Reyhan and Leyla (the names are pseudonyms, as is clearly stated on the introductory info-card), and Asya, also a former victim of domestic abuse, who introduced one to the other and helped them in their battle. The first chapter serves as the introduction, in which all three explain how they physically got away from their tormentors, how they used the support provided by the system of women’s shelters and how they decided to proceed with legal action with the help of lawyer Birsen Baş Topaloğlu. At the beginning, the atmosphere is tense, almost thriller-like, with quick cuts between the re-enacted situations, and with phone conversations, voice-over narration and suspenseful music serving as the audio background.

The second, longest, chapter chronicles the new friendship they forged, their mutual support and their court battles. For this part, the helmer switches her style to alternating between re-enactments and “talking heads” interviews, dropping the narration and the thriller style of directorial interventions almost completely. The final act, filmed in a quasi-observational manner, serves as the epilogue and a hint at what they decided to do to make a positive impact through their experience, which is to provide help and support to other victims. The focus is on Ayşegül, the mother of two daughters abused by their father, who, unlike Reyhan’s and Leyla’s mothers, decided to put a stop to it.

The multitude of directorial approaches and the changes in filming styles might create a considerable amount of confusion for the viewer, although the structure of the whole film is pretty clear. The music by Marc Collin, which changes in style to fit the general tone of the narrative, serves its purpose, and so does the precise editing by Burçak Yurdakul. However, the camerawork by Florent Herry at times seems too flashy, especially in the abundant use of drone shots, whose nigh-on picture-postcard quality stands in stark contrast to the gravity of the film’s topic.

However, A Day, 365 Hours is more about the topic itself, and the message of empowerment and the need to take action that it sends to all of the women and girls suffering abuse at home. Its style is a good fit when it comes to transmitting that message to domestic and international target audiences, while not causing outrage on home turf or overly antagonising Turkish society. Maybe this is the right way to show that the legal mechanisms do work, but only when the decisive first step is taken by the victims themselves.

A Day, 365 Hours is a Turkish-Croatian co-production staged by ZK Films and Fade In.

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