Dedicated to the memory of Turkish actor-director Yilmaz Guney (1937-84), who directed several of his final pics by proxy from prison, “Yolda” is an extremely personal memoir by veteran helmer Erden Kiral that won’t mean a whole lot to anyone unacquainted with Guney’s extraordinary career. Even with that knowledge, it’s difficult to see the point of the movie, which partly fictionalizes Kiral’s own failed experience as one of Guney’s proxy directors in the early ’80s. Fest sidebars look like its only avenue.
A director known simply as Yilmaz (Halil Ergun, far beefier than the real Guney) is about to be moved to another prison, but first orders filming to stop on his latest pic, as the director, Sedat (Serdar Orcin), simply doesn’t understand what Yilmaz wants. As Yilmaz is escorted by a respectful cop, Hilmi (Kevork Turker), by car to Bursa, both his wife, Hale (Yesim Buber), and Sedat follow — in an odyssey that’s occasionally revealing but ends on a big nothing.
A coda set sometime later — no dates are specified in the film — has Sedat faking calls to Yilmaz’s aging mom, who hasn’t been told her son escaped from prison and died abroad. Point seems to be that Sedat is trying to make amends for his churlish behavior, and is still taking a proxy role.
Though pic is professionally made and well acted, and conveys some of the exploratory nature of the journey the characters undertake, Kiral fails to transmute his own memories of Guney into anything that could interest outsiders. Script also provides no background on the period (when Turkey was controlled by a right-wing military-backed government) or main character (Guney, a left-leaning Kurd, was imprisoned for homicide). This is clearly deliberate, to make the pic more abstract, but will utterly confuse general viewers.
Title means “On the Road,” a reference to Guney’s most famous movie, “The Way” (Yol, 1982), helmed in his stead by Serif Goren.