Nine peasant women in the village of Arslankoy, southern central Turkey, achieve varying amounts of personal liberation in “The Play,” a bracing, good-natured portrait of rural community via a theatrical performance based on their own lives. Standout docu in the recent Istanbul festival is perfect fare for cultural TV slots.
After laboring by day in the fields, the women come together, under the aegis of local school principal Huseyin Arslankoylu, to mount a play he’s written based on their own stories. It’s a generic, two-generational yarn of village life, with a folkloric flavor (tough childbirth, spousal abuse, eloping children, etc.), that becomes a call for change mixed with skeletal agitprop. For one woman, the forceful Ummuye Kocak, it’s “a matter of life and death” to get “our message across”; for others, it’s more an enjoyable social occasion that gives them a new self-confidence. Documaker Pelin Esmer, a sociology major, stands back and lets the women do the (considerable) talking as they get increasingly competitive and minor sparks fly, climaxing in their big night before a massed local audience. DV credits are fine, and sense of place is acute.