Review: ‘Zara’

Screaming "arthouse" from the first frame and never letting up, Ayten Mutlu Saray's opaque, pompous debut feature, "Zara," is convinced it's transforming the pain of thwarted Kurdish nationalism into a poetic meditation on inner and outer exile.

Screaming “arthouse” from the first frame and never letting up, Ayten Mutlu Saray’s opaque, pompous debut feature, “Zara,” is convinced it’s transforming the pain of thwarted Kurdish nationalism into a poetic meditation on inner and outer exile. In reality, pic’s self-satisfied superiority and incomprehensible action would require a lengthy primer to decipher its airless metaphors, and even then, it would hardly warrant the effort. Yet another example of co-financer Hubert Bals Fund indiscriminately taking up politically correct causes without judgment, “Zara” has zero chances outside rarefied fests buying into the smug charade.

Two women incongruously wander across a flat landscape meant as a metaphor for the Kurdish homeland: Mirka (Serpil Ocal) carries a battered suitcase; her Swiss friend (or lover?), Nursa (Barbara Sotelsek), carries a violin case. Mirka is in search of her childhood village and a reconnection with memory, land and meaning, while presumably, Nursa stands in for the concerned Westerner wanting to understand. Along the way they encounter ultra-serious figures impenetrable in their symbolism. Visuals aren’t bad, but not good enough to compensate for the crushing pretentiousness, or the tedious soundscape of extended rumbling tones.

Zara

Austria-Netherlands-Switzerland

Production

A Kranzelbinder Gabriele Production (Austria)/Pal AV (Netherlands)/M.A. (Switzerland) production. Produced by Ayten Mutlu Saray, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Jos van der Pal. Directed, written by Ayten Mutlu Saray.

Crew

Camera (color, Super-16-to-35mm), Felix von Muralt; editors, Daniel Gibel, Frederic Fichefet, Ilse Buchelt; music, Marcel Vaid; production designer, Esther Viersen; costume designer, Ellen Lens. Reviewed at Middle East Film Festival (competing), Abu Dhabi, Oct. 18, 2008. Kurdish, German, Turkish dialogue. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Serpil Ocal, Barbara Sotelsek, Alisan Onlu, Bedriye Aydemir, Roza Erdem, Newroz Baz, Sultan Cakmak, Jiyan Aktas.
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