The Wild East at the Boston Turkish Film Festival


When people think about Turkey, Istanbul usually comes to mind, but that huge, ancient city shrinks before the vastness of Anatolia, depicted as the wild, untamed East in one of this year's Boston Turkish Film Festival, and as symbolic of the depredations and decline of civilization and industrial exploitation in another.

In Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" (2011; screens tonight and Friday, March 30, at 7 pm) the Leone-esque title seems largely ironic, as a team of bumbling police investigators spend hours driving along the bleak Anatolian wasteland searching for the grave of a murder victim. They discuss trivia, bicker, and when one cop talks about his gun and the desperados he must deal with every day, it seems like maybe he's watched too much TV. And these guys aren't exactly CSI Miami, as they forget such basic equipment as body bags and their exhumation gear consists of two guys with shovels ("No picks?" the exasperated chief complains).

A black comic high point occurs when the crew ponders the logistics of stuffing a too big body into a too small trunk. But as the caravan of three cars snakes through the empty steppes - shot in extreme long shot, winding along endless roads, vulnerable and tiny in the landscape - it becomes clear that the search is internal, through the guilty, grieving memories of the investigators, ending with an excavation of a different, grislier kind.


In Muzaffer Özdemir's "Home" (2011; screens Saturday, March 24 at 1 pm) however, the problem isn't that Anatolia is too desolate, its become too "civilized." This might be one of the main reasons that Dogan, a young architect, is down in the dumps. He complains to a friend of a crippling sense of anomie and déjà vu, not unlike that of some of the investigators in Ceylan's film, and his impulse is also to tour Anatolia, revisiting the small town of his youth. Along the way he finds the countryside increasingly blighted by rampant exploitation, with thousands of streams dammed and mountains leveled by mining projects. Even degraded, though, the landscape radiates an ancient, ethereal beauty, and the film, slow and plotless, casts a meditative spell.

The Festival takes place March 22-April 8 at the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | 617-369-3907

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