Pendance Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘Toprak’

Posted in Festival Coverage, What's Streaming? by - March 29, 2021
Pendance Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘Toprak’

Toprak protagonist is Cemil (Numan Cakir), a Turkish man trying to survive as a pomegranate farmer. He seems to be doing well with a small operation, where he directly sells his product in a rural roadside stand. But situations like this can be volatile, and upending his situation is his mother’s pancreatic cancer. Her doctor think she can survive the illness but only through an expensive procedure, and he has a few ways of getting the money. He could sell his farm or be a ‘courier,’ the latter being both illegal and immoral. A third option involves selling a kidney.

Toprak really addresses what’s at stake with what seems like Cemil’s deal with the devil by also showing his family. He, obviously, will do anything to keep them alive. A member of that family is his nephew Burak (Burak Aydin). And depicting this relationship will remind viewers of the rarity of seeing uncle-nephew relationship is onscreen. The montages of them spending time in the farm together are memorable enough and feel resonant especially when Cemil’s mother drives the man and boy apart. The film, then, uses Burak in its centerpiece scenes, keeping the home clean and together like Cemil did.

The movie also pays attention to the fact that, obviously, life is all about the relationships one makes or breaks with others. Cemil often deals with Mustafa (Mustafa Samanli). He’s a religious man whose relationship with Cemil depends on whether or not hardship strengthens the latter’s relationship with God. Burak sometimes works the farm with a girl who lives nearby, Su (Emine Amil), who thinks that marriage is her way out of their small town. The movie deals with the consequences of these characters’ actions without making those decisions feel deterministic. Its objectivity makes it the festival’s best film.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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