Ask Istanbul cinephiles which director best represents their city and Reha Erdem’s name is always near the top of the list. As engaging in person as his narrative worlds are onscreen, Erdem knows how to begin a tale quietly and cast a spell over his viewers. His most recent film, the stylized dark fable Kosmos, caused a stir at this year’s Berlinale. But it is his previous film, My Only Sunshine, which perhaps best expresses the filmmaker’s vision of Istanbul: a mix of hard truths and stark poetry.
Fourteen-year-old Hayat (Elit Iscan) lives with her father and bedridden grandfather in a shack next to the dark, beautiful waters of the Bosphorus Strait. Her matted hair and closed face mark her as a wild child, but secretly she longs for stability. Her father, a small-time smuggler, ferries Hayat to school in the same boat he uses to deliver prostitutes and contraband to huge tanker ships anchored offshore. Neglected by her father, Hayat does no better with her mother, who has remarried and now treats her daughter with rough resentment.
Erdem builds the details of Hayat’s world with a keen eye, contrasting the pastoral quality of her ramshackle home on the water with the brutality of the big city. Her father buys her a stuffed animal that plays “My Only Sunshine” and says “I love you,” but it’s a poor substitute for real love. As Hayat crosses the threshold into puberty, that drought of real love and the brutality of her life on the margins begin to take on harsher tones.
But all is not bleak in Erdem’s film. Somehow, Hayet begins to fumble for a way out. She finds her own bargain with the mercenary world around her. And as the story pushes to a glorious finish, she also finds transcendence. Having built his film around the timeless dramatic and lyrical force of the Bosphorus, Erdem offers it up to his beautiful, troubled, too-wise young heroine, who makes those waters her own. –TIFF
Born in Istanbul in 1960, Reha Erdem graduated from the Cinema Department of Paris 8 University. He obtained his M.A. in Plastic Arts at the same university. He shot his feature debut Oh Moon in 1989, as a French-Turkish co-production. He wrote and directed Run for Money in 1999, Mommy, I’m Scared in 2004, Times and Winds in 2006 (Toronto, Tribeca, Rotterdam), My Only Sunshine in 2008 (Berlinale, Toronto) and Kosmos in 2009 (Berlinale). His latest film Jin is the Opening Film of the Generation 14plus Competition at Berlinale 2013. He also has short films and directed a theater play, Maids (Les Bonnes) by Jean Genet.
Her "humming" was a coping mechanism to deal with her abusive, life of pure hell and excrement. Same with her thumb sucking, pacifiers, abusing animals, staring into space. Brutal film, brutal rape scene. It was not graphic, just implied, which made it even more upsetting. This director knows what he is doing. Excellent film, but depressing as hell. It reminded me very well why I am a hard core misanthrope.
The acclaimed Turkish director’s work ranges from the blackly comic to the eerily poetic.
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Celebrated Turkish filmmaker Reha Erdem (“Beş Vakit” & “Kaç Para Kaç”) continues his international success with this elegy to alienated urban Turkish teenage life which took home awards at both… read review