The April Children

The absorbing "Aprilkinder" reps an impressive feature debut for writer-director Yuksel Yavuz. Lean, slow-to-boil drama about a Kurdish family uneasily transplanted from Turkey to Hamburg concentrates more on the immigrant generation gap than on societal racism; vivid characterizations and a fresh, unfussy viewpoint make this not-unfamiliar subject compelling. Pic is a natural for fests and new-director sidebars, though a rather abrupt, unsatisfactory last lap makes offshore theatrical sales less likely.

With:
Cem ..... Erdal Yildiz Kim ..... Inga Busch Mehmet ..... Bulent Esrungun Dilan ..... Senem Tepe Mother ..... Serif Sezer Father ..... Cemel Yavuz Arif ..... Kaan Emre

The absorbing “Aprilkinder” reps an impressive feature debut for writer-director Yuksel Yavuz. Lean, slow-to-boil drama about a Kurdish family uneasily transplanted from Turkey to Hamburg concentrates more on the immigrant generation gap than on societal racism; vivid characterizations and a fresh, unfussy viewpoint make this not-unfamiliar subject compelling. Pic is a natural for fests and new-director sidebars, though a rather abrupt, unsatisfactory last lap makes offshore theatrical sales less likely.

Tight directorial control maintains the tension and jettisons the potential comedy (though there is a sardonic undercurrent) in a domestic setup that’s all about squabbling. A cramped apartment can barely contain three children — all fluent German speakers — who escape their parents’ weary expectations at every opportunity.

Long-suffering Mom (Serif Sezer), stuck here with a griping invalid husband (Cemel Yavuz), focuses her hopes on quiet eldest son Cem’s (Erdal Yildiz) forthcoming marriage to a cousin from the village back home. He’s much less excited about that prospect, especially once the painfully shy meat-packing-plant worker meets blond-wigged prostitute Kim (Inga Busch). Their vigorously sexual relationship grows its own communication gap, however — her quicksilver moods and his inability to accept a “workinggirl’s” responsibilities ensure strife.

Obnoxious, bullying younger sib Mehmet (Bulent Esrungun), meanwhile, is trying hard to infiltrate an uncle’s organized crime ranks; this doesn’t look promising, though, particularly because his main underworld liaison is a junkie youth who can plan only as far ahead as the next fix. Mehmet’s best friend, Arif (Kaan Emre), is distracted as well — by an interest in the family’s bored teenage daughter, Dilan (Senem Tepe). Their sneaking around on awkward “dates” provides the film’s principal vein of low-key humor.

Brisk intercutting among these strands maintains suspense as we anticipate the hell that will break loose once each family member learns what the others have been up to. But somewhere around the one-hour mark development stalls, and all too soon afterward, the film jarringly halts. Mehmet’s gangsta aspirations, Dilan’s puppy love and Kim’s erratic devotion are left dangling. While Cem alone faces a concrete future, a blur of camera moment reflects his ambivalence during a dance with the new bride. This union hands Mom her personal triumph — but one suspects its stability will be short-lived.

While there’s something to be said for avoidance of a rote violent outburst at the climax, fuzzy wrap nonetheless disappoints. But pic’s tersely described characters are intriguing and well-cast. Yildiz’s striking good looks are a useful contrast to Cem’s almost comically bashful manner. Script’s reluctance to spell out cloudy personal motivations works least well with Kim, who risks coming off as a stock sexy-but-unstable prostie (the kind who waives her fee for the geekiest client, of course) despite thesp Busch’s decent turn.

Tech package is assured; straightforward lensing abets the stripped-down tenor, as does lack of musical scoring.

The April Children

(GERMANY)

Production: An Inter Nationales release of a Ventura Films presentation of a Zero Film production in association with ZDF. Produced by Thomas Kufus. Executive producer , Anneke Reddering. Directed by Yuksel Yavuz. Screenplay, Yavuz, Britta Ohm, Henner Winckler.

Crew: Camera (color), Ciro Cappellari; editor, Arpad Bondy; production designer, Gabrielle Wolff; costumes, Dorothee Kriener; sound mixer, Pierre Brand; sound recordist, Bernd Upnmoor. Reviewed at Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, San Francisco, Jan. 14, 2000. Running time: 85 MIN.

With: Cem ..... Erdal Yildiz Kim ..... Inga Busch Mehmet ..... Bulent Esrungun Dilan ..... Senem Tepe Mother ..... Serif Sezer Father ..... Cemel Yavuz Arif ..... Kaan Emre

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