Maverick distaff helmer Handan Ipekci again tackles big issues with her melodramatic but important expose on honor killings, “Hidden Faces.” Unlikely to generate the kind of censorship provoked by her previous pic, “Hejar,” which dealt with the taboo subject of Turkish-Kurdish relations yet still proved extremely popular, the current work is unabashedly mainstream in its overwrought treatment of a woman’s escape from her family’s vengeance. Popular style targets unsophisticated auds, making international fests, other than those with human-rights themes, unlikely takers.
Frequent time shifts are clumsily edited as the story of Zuhre (Senay Aydin) unfolds. A teen from a rural town in Turkey, she’s fallen in love with a local boy and had the audacity to sleep with him and get pregnant. When the family finds out, they force her gentle brother Ismail (sensitive heartthrob Berk Hakman) to strangle the baby, then send him out to shoot Zuhre on her way to school.
But Ismail can’t go through with the horrific deed, and helps Zuhre escape. Flash forward five years to Germany, and the brother (Cem Bender) of Zuhre’s former b.f. makes a documentary about the attempted honor killing. Scrupulously staying undercover for fear of giving away Zuhre’s new identity, he can’t help tormenting Zuhre’s uncle Ali (Istar Gokseven) with the news of her escape.
Now a respected leader in Germany’s Turkish community, Ali still believes his family’s honor needs avenging.
Chilling statistics at the finale reveal the disturbing number of honor killings still practiced in Turkey, making “Hidden Faces” especially relevant at home. For everyone else, TV stylizations and predictable developments are unlikely to impress, though the overall force of the story still gets driven home.
Thesping largely avoids histrionics: Hakman, with his large, puppy-dog eyes reflecting a world of pain, is especially effective, and Nisa Yildirim, as Zuhre’s strong-willed aunt, carries a force generally lacking in other players. Visuals tend to be bright and unremarkable.