Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Ayse (Begüm Akkaya) is getting married to Hasan (Murathan Muslu). He's a handsome young man and she's a beautiful, blushing bride. That very same day he'll be taking her away from her Turkish village and back to his home in Vienna. But all is not as it appears. The marriage is a sham, a way to get past the immigration authorities so she can become a second wife, or kuma, to Hasan's father.

There's been a rash of films about situations like this recently - and quite rightly, as it's an important subject - but this does mean there's a risk of them becoming formulaic. At first glance, this looks like it has much in common with its contemporaries. The family of which Ayse becomes a part is simmering with tension, with secrets and things everyone knows but no-one says. Domestic violence, homosexuality, jealousy and resentment are compounded by the omnipresence of gossiping older women. Yet as the story progresses, Kuma deftly defies expectations and develops into a sophisticated, emotionally powerful tale.

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Key to this is Akkaya, whose wide-eyed sweetness belies a considerable talent. Seemingly willing to take on any burden, Ayse gradually wins the affection and respect of those around her, forming a particularly close bond with cancer stricken first wife Fatma (Nihal G Koldas). Her devotion is genuine, but is she inviting a level of emotional dependency she cannot ultimately sustain? By presenting her as a woman at ease with tradition, wishing to abide by traditional rules even in the face of personal suffering, the film adds an extra dimension to familiar cultue clash stories by questioning how sustainable a model built on such sacrifice has ever been. Fatma's hope that Ayse's presence will stabilise her family stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of family itself.

With an intelligent script from Petra Ladinigg and a superb ensemble cast, Kuma is one of the best social dramas you are likely to see this year. It's lengthy, complicated and occasionally contrived, but approaches its subject with freshness and grace, never preaching. Hard to watch in places, but worth it.

Reviewed on: 25 Jan 2013
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A young woman enters into a fake marriage in order to move from Turkey to Austria and become the second wife of an older man.
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Director: Umut Dag

Starring: Nihal Koldas, Begüm Akkaya, Vedat Erincin, Murathan Muslu, Alev Irmak

Year: 2011

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: Austria


BIFF 2012
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