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BLACK NIGHTS 2017 First Feature Competition

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The Seagull: The vast expanse of Turkey

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- Turkish director Erkan Tunç makes his feature debut with a worthy play on genre, set on a traditional rural farm

The Seagull: The vast expanse of Turkey
Sahra Şaş in The Seagull

After working as a poet, dramatist, critic, assistant director and editor on various television series, Erkan Tunç is due to present his first fiction film, The Seagull, a Turkish Mint production, as part of the First Feature Competition at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Tunç certainly seems to draw on his artistic background in his debut film, which takes place almost entirely on a farm in the countryside (which is somewhat reminiscent of a theatrical stage) and stars popular Turkish television actors.

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Yakup (Onur Buldu) works in a chicken coop near his home, which he shares with his wife Mediha (Sahra Şaş). The film opens with Torvill and Dean’s famous skating performance at the 1984 Olympic Games, which Mediha follows miserably on television. We soon meet Kiraz, hired by Nusret, who brings Yakup some chickens and a certain “fertility elixir”, taking the opportunity to ask him about a hidden treasure lost on the land, and also to let him know that an assistant is on their way to help Yakup on the farm. In the early stages of the film, Tunç highlights a certain contrast between the spouses: Yakup suffers from lameness and epileptic seizures, while Mediha shows off her beauty in the shower and shakes off Yakup's advances. She dreams of becoming a skater, while he's mad about football. These differences, invisible to her husband, only become more exaggerated with the arrival of a couple, Ersin (Öner Erkan) and Nurgul (İrem Sak), whose urban, rebellious and open spirit shares few similarities with traditional life in the fields of Ízmir.

The screenplay, written by the director, adds a slow rhythm, good humour and some external threats (the worrying absence of Nusret due to a lack of coverage and news, a car driven by two men dressed in red and a recurring dream featuring a masked girl...) in order to emphasise the mystery surrounding the story of the newcomers, as well as intrigue regarding impotent Yakup’s dreams of starting a future family with Mediha. In the games played with spaces on the farm (the privacy of every home, the workplace, the makeshift cemetery...), each character acts as a counterpoint to the others, which helps make the film – which is over two hours long – digestible. Erkan Tunç's boldness, also evident in the film’s ending, has generated some decent results (the way he uses Ravel's bolero, for example), while also leaving room for improvement (the seagull metaphor in the title doesn’t really come to fruition). Overall the film is positively balanced and is at times surprising, while managing to express – within the context of an overarching genre game – a somewhat controversial criticism of contemporary Turkish society.

(Translated from Spanish)

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