FNE at Berlinale 2011: Competition Our Grand Despair

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BERLIN: Turkish film director Seyfi Teoman follows his internantionally successful Summer Book with the light-hearted Our Grand Despair. While the film's story begins with Nihal (Gunes Sayin) a young woman who is trying to recover from her grief after her parents are killed in a traffic accident it is really about the relationship between Ender (Ilker Aksum) and Cetin (Fatih Al) two Turkish men in their thirties sharing a flat in Ankara.

Ender and Cetin have been friends since school days and they enjoy a warm platonic friendship of many years. But when their best friend Fikert (Baki Davrak) asks them to let his sister move in with them for awhile they cannot refuse him.

Still traumatized by the loss of her parents Nihal joins the all male household and at first her presence irritates the two men. But gradually the two men begin to enjoy Nihal's company and the inevitable happens-both of them fall in love with her.

Our Grand Despair is anything but despairing. The relationships between Cetin and Ender are handled with a light comedic touch and so is their relationship with Nihal. Both men know that their loyalty to each other and to the girl's brother should prohibit this love. The despair they feel is about the tender feelings they feel for the young girl that they know they can never fully express. It is a warm and tender and funny film. The characters are kind and good hearted and the director's light touch makes this a pleasure to watch as he avoids all the usual rom-com clichés. The relationship between the two men at first looks like it might turn out to be a homosexual relationship but the relationship is much more subtle. But it is a deep and subtle male friendship that is almost like a marriage. Nihal is attracted to this "family."

One of the biggest developments in the Turkish film of the past five years has been the increasing quality of the acting in Turkish films and all three of the leading actors turn in excellent performances especially Gunes Sayin as the young girl. The film's success really depends on the chemistry between the three leads.

Set in Ankara the film shows us a modern Turkish urban environment after so many recent Turkish films set in the rougher neighbourhoods of Istanbul or in villages.

Speaking at the press conference Teoman said: "The film is not really a comedy even though it is light hearted. I would call it a drama with a lot of drama included in it. I would say it's a film about everyday life. I cannot put it into any category.

As for the relationship between the two men, there is nothing here that is a repressed homosexual relationship. The two men are in a close but platonic relationship. It's a partnership. The two men love to cook together. In Turkey men spend a lot of time in the kitchen and they love to cook. In Turkey such close relationships between two men are not so unusual."

The film was backed by Turkish pubcaster TRT, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Eurimages.

Directed by Seyfi Teoman.

Screenplay, Baris Bicakci, Seyfi Teoman, adapted from the novel by Bicakci.

Production: Bulut Film (http://www.bulutfilm.com/) Unafilm, Circe Films

(International sales: the Match Factory, Cologne, Germany.)

Produced by Yamac Okur, Nadir Operli.

Co-producers, Titus Kreyenberg, Stienette Bosklopper.

Cast: Ilker Aksum, Fatih Al, Gunes Sayin, Baki Davrak, Taner Birsel, Mehmet Ali Nuroglu, Beril Boz, Damla Kabakci, Durak Bulbul; Tamer Yurtbasi, Meliha Corek, Ilker Burma, Selim Gurata