Friday, December 10, 2010

NY Turkish Film Festival: Absurdistan

Economically and geopolitically, water is more precious than oil. The men of one nameless village in a former Central Asian Soviet republic do not need to be convinced of that. When the town’s water supply runs dry, it ignites a humbling war of the sexes in Veit Helmer’s Absurdistan (trailer here), which screens as part of the Without Borders sidebar at the 2010 New York Turkish Film Festival.

Based on a reported incident in a remote Turkish village, Absurdistan is a slightly naughty fable of young love and scarcity. Though not significant enough to warrant on spot on the map, the men of the town are renowned for their mojo. At least, they are legends in their own minds. They are not particularly industrious though, so when the central water pipe runs dry, they put off repairing it, until their sons return from boarding school in the big city.

Yet, only Temelko returns, but he has good reason. He has a hot-and-heavy appointment with childhood sweetheart Aya, but it must occur during the precise star alignment proscribed by her hip grandma. Unfortunately, having tired of the men’s constant mañana-ing, the women have put their collective foot down—no water, no action. This extends to Temelko too.

Maximilian Mauff, and Krystýna Maléřová in particular, make an attractive couple as the young Temelko and Aya. The rest of the cast we probably do not need to see making whoopee on-screen again anytime soon. Though Helmer occasionally forces the cuteness, he mostly handles the film’s magical realism and flights of whimsy with deftly light touch. The gossipy tiny hamlet vibe is also nicely rendered.

Perhaps surprisingly given the “stan” of the title, religion plays little or no role in Absurdistan, but then again, this is a film all about getting some action (or being denied). Neither is their former captive nation status especially relevant to Helmer’s screen-story (co-written with Gordan Mihic, Zaza Buadze, and Ahmet Golbol). Indeed, the isolated community was desperately poor under Communism and remains so today.

Helmed by the German born Helmer, Absurdistan could be considered a film of the Turkish Diaspora. Frankly, it is the sort of foreign film that translates well for American audiences, so it is strange it never really made it to New York screens during its general American release. A pleasant little film, Absurdistan screens this coming Sunday (12/12) as the 12th New York Turkish Film Festival concludes at the SVA Theater.