a Turkish teenager tossed between two ideologies in front of Nehir Tuna’s camera


Two very opposed universes share the first feature film by Turkish director Nehir Tuna, 38 years old. The first is that of a mixed and secular high school, the second, a religious boarding school for boys. Two establishments between which the timetable of the young hero is divided, Ahmet (Doga Karakas), a studious student who, despite the difficulty experienced in being away from his parents, strives to fulfill all his duties to satisfy the ambitions of his father.

Between these two worlds, at the very moment of this adolescence which already subjects the body and the conscience to all kinds of upheavals, indecisions and contradictions, the young boy must above all manage to build himself, to grow, perhaps even to choose. A complex path if ever there was one, that Nehir Tuna travels with tenderness, favoring gentleness over tumult, emotions that surface over those that overflow. The aesthetic manifests this bias which, during a large part of the film, provides a magnificent black and white, as a symbol of the reigning Manichaeism. Then slides towards color when, in the last third, it comes to filming the impulse towards freedom and the intoxication of youth.

Before that, let us point out that we are in Turkey, during the year 1996, when strong tensions opposed the secularists claiming to be Atatürk (founder, in 1923, of the Republic of Turkey) and the religious people calling for political Islam. In July, the latter came to power. The Kemalists demonstrate in the streets, while the army, at the head of the defenders of secularism, carries out checks in religious establishments in order to repress any attempt at radicalization, both in terms of discipline and teaching.

Opposing currents

Largely inspired by the director’s own story (business studies in Turkey, then cinema in the United States), the film reports the first year in high school of young Ahmet, 14, who during the day follows classes at a private school secular, modern, open to debates and to all disciplines, then, in the evening, joins, in secret from his classmates, a yurt [« dortoir »]a boys’ boarding school where Koranic teaching imposes severe discipline: collective prayers, household chores, deprivation of vacations at the slightest deviation, corrections with belts for disobedience.

A good student and eager to become a good Muslim, Ahmet does not rebel, wishing to please his father, Kerim (Tansu Biçer), whose faith, long neglected, has asserted itself and now guides each of his choices. He hopes as much from his son, through whom he hopes to obtain his own salvation. From then on, Ahmet submits, navigating with opposing currents, tossed between two ideologies and obeying each. In the same way that at high school the nape of the neck and the wind-blown hair of a newly arrived high school girl disturbs him, while at boarding school the body of his friend Hakan (Can Bartu Aslan) moves him.

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