Reviewed by: Chris

"Riza is an interesting character study in which badness takes on a worryingly ambiguous mantle. Its merit is the ambiguous questions and awkward character study it presents."

Different circumstances don't justify wrong actions or alter what is right and wrong. But they do make them different.

Riza seems like a nice guy. He's Turkish and drives a lorry - his only possession, and mortgaged - from Adana to Istanbul (the only world metropolis situated on two continents).

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Let's remember that Turkey is a unique country. One we might want to understand better if it is going to be part of the European Union. Secular, but shoulder to shoulder with a heritage where women have fewer rights. Growing economically, but with many of its citizens still suffering desperate hardship (20 per cent are below the poverty line). Watching football on a shared TV set might be the highlight of your day. It's a country where your first duty, you may deduce, is first and foremost just to survive.

Riza's truck has broken down in Istanbul. He has to work to pay his debts but has no money to pay for repairing the crankshaft. Holed up in a miserable hostel, we suddenly see him living as if in a Third World country rather than a thriving metropolis. Other residents are similarly trapped in a life from which they desperately need an exit. A Kurdish peddler hoping for a job in a factory. An old man who does nothing but watch TV. A gay sailor waiting for a ship. An Afghan hoping to follow his son as an illegal immigrant to Italy and his daughter in law.

At first sight, the Afghan and the Turk seem very similar to western eyes, but they are vistas apart. Mannerisms, language, expectations. His beautiful hijab-covered daughter looks out of place. At once vulnerable and threatening.

Riza is also having a crisis of conscience with an old lover, Aysel, he once treated badly (add to this, problems with attitudes to women, even in secular Turkey, and the baggage women consequently carry). Riza's mind is confused - he wants to borrow money from her - and does he still like her? Aysel is feeling befuddled and angry by his advances. She is still dealing with her own guilt - not over her infidelity with Riza, but over her resentment about serving her husband.

Every avenue deteriorates for Riza. Something bad is waiting to happen. Strangely, it is Riza's awful response to his predicament that guiltily releases kindness from his selfish heart.

Riza is an interesting character study in which badness takes on a worryingly ambiguous mantle. Its merit is the ambiguous questions and awkward character study it presents. It is also a window into a country that the West knows too little about. But when there is nothing for the characters to do in their empty surroundings, nothing happens. There are interminably long silences in which you could put the kettle on, come back, and no one would have moved or said anything. Sometimes I felt like I was looking at a broken crankshaft waiting for it to mend itself.

Reviewed on: 12 Aug 2007
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A selfish man undertakes a complicated journey which might teach him the value of doing the right thing.

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Andrew Robertson **

Director: Tayfun Pirselimoglu

Writer: Tayfun Pirselimoglu

Starring: Melissa Ahmedi, Riza Akin, Emin Bas, Muhammed Cangören, Gürbüz Demir, Melih Duzenli, Nurcan Eren, Hayati Pirselimoglu, Fatih Sevildi, Turgay Tan

Year: 2007

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: Turkey


EIFF 2007

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