26 January 2016 | l_rawjalaurence
Family Melodrama Set Once Again Around the 1980 Military Intervention in Turkey
With DEDEMİN İNSANLARI (MY GRANDFATHER'S PEOPLE) director Çağan Irmak returns once again to the thematic territory so profitably explored in BABAM VE OĞLUM (2005).
This time the story centers round an extended family living in a village outside İzmir. When he was young Mehmet (Çetin Tekindor) was forcibly removed from his family home in Crete and resettled in the Turkish Aegean area. At first his presence was resented by the locals, but as time passed he became accepted as a Turk. Yet the undercurrents of racism still persist: Mehmet's grandson Ozan (Durukan Çelikkaya) is still denounced as a foreigner at school, and even comes to blows over the issue. Hence much of the film centers on the importance of reconciliation; of people of different cultural backgrounds learning how to co-exist, and the importance of families staying together.
Set in the years 1979-1980, the majority of the film is shot in a nostalgic glow of yellows and golds, recreating a nostalgic world centered around Mehmet's vineyard, where the family gather for long dinners under the stars and reminisce about their past. Mehmet yearns to return to Crete, but has never had the opportunity to do so; all he can do is to send messages in bottles over the sea in the hope that one of them will arrive by chance at the place of his birth and be read by the Cretan family now living there.
This mood of nostalgia is abruptly halted by the military intervention of 1980. The village is taken over by the junta, and a new government-appointed mayor (Zafer Alagöz) brought in. The film's tone changes abruptly, as Ozan's father İbrahim (Yiğit Özsener) becomes embroiled in a fight for the village's entire identity. Mehmet tries to intervene but is abruptly rebuffed by the new mayor.
As a result, the family have to come to terms with a shattering loss. Yet Irmak shows that the loss might not necessarily be perceived as such; the family come together once more, and provide the kind of strength in numbers that enable them to resist any pressure to change their ways of life. The adult Ozan (Ushan Çakir) who has narrated the action in voice-over, at last gets the chance to visit Crete; and discovers things about his family's past that have never been forgotten, despite the passage of time.
DEDEMİN İNSANLARI makes some stinging criticisms of governments, especially those that try to impose their values on others' lives. Yet the film also suggests, perhaps sentimentally, that there are more lasting values such as family and tolerance that survive any attempts at destruction. If people learn to co-exist peacefully with one another, than perhaps anything is possible: people might have their wildest dreams realized.
Less sentimental in tone than BABAM VE OĞLUM, but no less compelling, DEDEMİN İNSANLARI is an uplifting experience to watch.