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Turkish Film Depicts Democracy Under Fire

  • Reuters

From left, actors Berkay Ates, Tulin Ozen, and director Emin Alper pose during the red carpet for the film Frenzy (Abluka) at the 72nd edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Sept. 8, 2015.

From left, actors Berkay Ates, Tulin Ozen, and director Emin Alper pose during the red carpet for the film Frenzy (Abluka) at the 72nd edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Sept. 8, 2015.

"Abluka", a dark and sinister film depicting Istanbul in the throes of a terrorist bombing campaign, is intended as a warning about the fragility of democracy, its Turkish director said on Tuesday.

"I think mainly it's about how the political atmosphere can drive people paranoid and crazy and create the destruction of the society," Emin Alper told Reuters in an interview at the Venice Film Festival.

"The political polarization, the political tensions and the idea of a polarized society between enemy and friends can destroy our identities, our confidence," he added.

Though set in Istanbul, he said, the human conflict portrayed was characteristic of many places in the 20th century.

The film, which means "Frenzy" in English, shows this societal disintegration through the eyes of two brothers, Kadir, played by Mehmet Ozgur, who has been released from prison on parole after years inside, and his younger brother Ahmet, played by Berkay Ates, whose wife has just left him.

Past Becomes Present

They have a third, middle brother whom neither has seen in years, and who may or may not be the head of the network that is terrorizing neighborhoods with bombings in the middle of the night, which in turn provoke a heavy police crackdown.

The film explores paranoia and the film's unconventional structure is designed to reflect disorientation caused by war, or the threat of violence.

It comes at a time of heightened tension in Turkey, following a bombing, blamed on Islamic State, in the southeastern city of Suruc in July that killed 30 people.

Since then, a ceasefire with Kurdish insurgents has broken down, the two conflicts feeding into each other and raising public fears. Hundreds of suspected Kurdish and Islamic State militants across the country have been arrested.

Turkey has expanded airstrikes against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq while militants, for their part, have launched the most destructive attacks in decades, killing dozens of Turkish servicemen.

"When we were shooting the film, we were living in a quite peaceful period and we thought that when we were shooting it, we said that now the film is referring more to the past," Alper said.

"But suddenly in July after this bomb attack in Suruc the ceasefire has stopped between Kurdish guerrillas and the government. And the film suddenly started referring to the present."

Although the action is set in Istanbul, Alper said what is portrayed could happen anywhere.

"The history of the 20th century is full of such political conflicts and you can see such political atmosphere everywhere," he said.

The film is in competition for the top Lion d'Or prize which will be awarded on Saturday.

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