Dir:Seyfi Teoman. Turkey , 2008. 92 mins.
Winner of Best Film in the national section at Istanbul, Seyfi Teoman's small-scale but poetic evocation of summer in a small provincial Turkish town will elicit a warm response both from festival programmers and Turkish communities abroad. The quiet, peaceful beauty of its landscape and its authentic-seeming characters will reward the patient viewer of this laid-back portrait of family life in Silifke, a town close enough to the Mediterranean to benefit from its weather but not enough to be a tourist attraction.
But Teoman's understated tone, sparse dialogue and detached point of view would seem to restrict Summer Book, which also played at Berlin, from breaking out much further than this limited audience.
Spread over the period of one summer holiday and seen mostly, but not exclusively, through the eyes of 10-year-old Ali (Gunay), Summer Book starts on the last day of the school year and ends with the first day of the new term. In between, it covers not only Ali's conflicts with boys of his own age and his early encounters with the grown-up world around him, but also his older brother Veysel's (Ozuag) desire to leave his military boarding school and move to an open university in Istanbul and their mother Guler's (Tokun) suspicions that her husband has a mistress.
Towering above them is Ali's father/husband Mustafa (Inan), who runs his business and his family with an iron fist. And in the shadows, his uncle Hasan (Birsel), once an aspiring business man, now the town's butcher, who has to take over when Mustafa suffers an unexpected stroke and is immobilized in a hospital.
And that's about it. While this may seem thin for a full-length feature, surprisingly it works. Teoman imposes on his film the rhythm of life itself in places like Silifke. The audience is left to figure out quite a few issues, including the truth about Mustafa's illicit relationship - which is an issue for a while and then is dwarfed by other events. Numerous details are unobtrusively sneaked in, such as the family's constant money worries, their respect for religion, the routine of their lives and how power plays out within the family.
Catalan cameraman Arnau Valls Colomer, who worked with Teoman on his short Apartment, does a great job using natural light. The decision to work most of the time in long shots also successfully integrates the characters into the landscape. With one exception (Birsel), the cast has had no previous experience, which adds to the immediacy of the picture as a whole, as no one seems to be acting.
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Director of photography
Arnau Valls Colomer