103 minutes

A young boy growing up in rural Turkey will only speak, in whispers, with his beekeeping father; but one day the father doesn't come home from work.

Amiable but slight, seductive but strangely unmemorable, Bal seems to be the sort of arthouse film tailor-made for little more than a berth at film festivals. And, indeed, Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu's fifth feature charmed the Golden Bear off Berlin's 2010 jury presided by Werner Herzog. It isn't hard to see why - this lovely tale of an idyllic (but far from perfect) rural childhood is as much observational character study as contemplative look at rural traditions and lifestyles unchanged for centuries (only occasionally does the modern world intrude), suggesting comparisons to Malick and Tarkovski (a particular favourite of Kaplanoglu's).
Sadly, the film's romanticised view of nature, lushly photographed by Baris Özbiçer, and its quietly sensitive view of childhood are not conducive to a structured narrative: the visuals aren't dazzling enough to make up for an episodic, meandering plot, the deliberate absence of music lending it an austerity that undoes the dreamlike charm of some moments. There are many wonderful things in Bal, but it ends up ultimately being less than the sum of its parts.
©2011 Jorge Mourinha. all rights reserved by the author

Starring Bora Altas, Erdal Besikcioglu, Tülın Özen, Alev Uçarer, Ayse Altay, Özkan Akçay, Selami Gökçe.
Directed and produced by Semih Kaplanoglu; written by mr. Kaplanoglu, Orçun Köksal, with the collaboration of Leyla Ipekçi; director of photography (Sinefekt), Baris Özbiçer; art director, Naz Erayda; film editors, Ayhan Ergürsel, mr. Kaplanoglu, S. Hande Güneri.
A Kaplan Film Production/Heimatfilm presentation/production, in co-production with ZDF, with the collaboration of ARTE, with the support of Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen and Eurimages. (World sales, The Match Factory.)
Screened: distributor advance press screening, Medeia King 1 (Lisbon), March 16th 2011.


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