ISTANBUL - Documentary director Hüseyin Karabey’s ’Gitmek’ (My Marlon and Brando) is to reach Turkish audiences after receiving international awards for its actress Ayça Damgacı, and being the subject of a minor controversy with the Culture Ministry. Damgacı plays herself in this real life love story
A road movie with a twist
You might have heard of director Hüseyin Karabey’s recent movie "Gitmek" (My Marlon and Brando), not for its success at international film festivals and the awards it has brought home since last summer, but for a short-lived scandal with the Culture Ministry.
The film was set to be screened in the Culturescapes Festival, held in Basel, Switzerland, which was playing host to Turkey. As the festival kicked off three weeks ago, daily Radikal announced the Culture Ministry’s intervention with Karabey’s film, asking the festival organizers to remove the film from its program, on grounds that, "a Turkish woman couldn’t fall in love with a Kurdish man from Northern Iraq, and the movie could trigger negative propaganda for Turkey."
This petty and absurd attempt at censorship caused the press to jump at the news and soon the Cinema Writers Association, or SİYAD, released a statement reproaching the Ministry’s antics. It was not long before the Ministry renounced all claims, saying that the movie would be screened at the Culturescapes Festival. We, perhaps, will be content with knowing that this little mishap worked for the promotion of the film and hopefully increased its audiences.
"My Marlon and Brando" is documentary director Hüseyin Karabey’s attempt at his first feature film, with a twist. The film blurs the lines between documentary and feature by telling a real love story with the real life heroes acting as themselves.
Two actors, Ayça Damgacı and Hama Ali Khan, meet on a film set in Turkey and fall in love. Hama Ali soon returns home to northern Iraq, only to see the United States invade his country. Ayça loses communication with her lover, and courageously decides to set out on a journey to northern Iraq.
The movie plays like a road movie - Karabey’s documentary style occasionally overtakes the movie - focusing on the people Ayça meets in her journey. The film takes its protagonist to eastern Turkey, then to Iran, and finally towards her boyfriend. Most of the time the film turns into a political commentary on war, migration, the role of women in Turkish and Iranian societies and the horrific situation of class differences in rural and urban Turkey.
Difficult to emphasize with its main character
Even though Ayça Damgacı’s award-winning performance brightens the screen, the lack of a feature script makes it very difficult to empathize with its main character. The movie abounds with scenes that would fit well with a documentary on the oppression of women in Iran, the scathing difference between the west and the east of Turkey, or the nonsensical nature of war. Unfortunately, "My Marlon and Brando" claims to be a road movie, and above that, a heartbreaking love story.
That is why the improvisational structure of some of the scenes adds a sense of loss to where the movie is headed and most importantly, questions whether the movie has a story at all.
Knowing that Ayça Damgacı is acting out her own experiences, and in a constant state of elation at that, "My Marlon and Brando" turns into a unique experience. And yet again, it is hard to avoid imagining how the movie could have fared in the hands of an experienced director of feature films, not documentaries.