In this festival where bombs and duds are commoner than April showers and May flowers, it’s practically a gift from God (if not an Act of God) to discover a movie as provocative, thoughtful, heartrending, and soul-stirring as Abdullah Oğuz’s Bliss, a near-great film that showed up last weekend with no fanfare from SIFF whatsoever: There was no advance press screening; no screeners made available—no attendant hoopla of any kind to alert us that something important was in our midst. Yet we found it anyway, an almost full house on Sunday afternoon at Pacific Place, grateful moviegoers moved to applause—and some to tears—at the film’s end.
Would it be an exaggeration to call Bliss the most significant work to emerge from Turkey in the past decade? The only film I’ve seen that comes close would be Paxton Winters’ still unreleased 2003 satire Crude, but that was written and directed by an American ex-pat, not a native Turk. As for such high-fashionista Turkish directors as Nuri Bilge Ceylon and the abysmally overrated Fatih Akin, their work is mostly hipster crap. More recently, there was Reha Erdem’s Times and Winds, about a bad seed kid and his evil deeds. A showcase for magnificent scenery, it amounted to little more than melodrama, a sort of Leave Her to Heaven with pre-teens and scorpions.
With Bliss, however, we get a film as site-specific to its native land (and sea) as it is universal in theme.