Refusing to believe her missing son is dead, a mother journeys to the wilds of Anatolia in “Innowhereland,” a borderline pretentious, somewhat retro slice of “committed” Turkish cinema given dignity and humanity by a terrific lead perf from Zuhal Olcay. First feature by painter-cum-novelist Tayfun Pirselimoglu looks likely to secure some festival exposure, with specialized TV slots to follow.
A host of movies during the past two decades have dealt with Turkey’s “missing” people, estimated by some to total roughly 3,000, though no exact figure exists. Some disappeared while under police custody, others vanished “normally,” with only half ever found. Though a series of pre-credit captions informs that the film is about missing people in general, the main character, Sukran (Olcay), was once married to a Kurdish activist, and it’s made fairly clear that her son was mixed up in some kind of anti-government activity.
An attractive woman in her 40s who works in a railroad ticket office, Sukran obsessively pursues every avenue of hope that her son Veysel is alive. Still insisting he was apolitical and “clean,” unlike her late husband, she clashes with Veysel’s fiancee, Sule (Devin Ozgur Cinar), who claims he’s now dead.
After thinking she’s spotted Veysel in a crowd, Sukran follows a lead from a friend (Parkan Ozturan) and travels to the extreme east of the country, to the Kurdish heartland, hoping to find him. Arriving in the ancient town of Mardin, close to the Syrian border, she’s met with hostility and bureaucratic indifference, until some people claim to know where he’s hiding.
There’s more than a hint of Turkish helmer Omer Kavur in Pirselimoglu’s cool, semi-abstract style and use of far-flung, photogenic locations in which to set personal odysseys. However, largely thanks to Olcay’s shaded playing of a potentially single-note role, plus some neat character parts (Cezmi Baskin as a movie projectionist, Ugurtan Sayiner as a hotel receptionist), pic just about escapes art-movie self-consciousness.
Fulfilling coproduction demands rather than dramatic ones, vet Michael Mendl briefly pops up as a Turkish-speaking German journalist. And though the film’s tempo remains measured and its content slim, the switch halfway to Mardin at least makes matters easy on the eye in experienced French d.p. Colin Mounier’s tasty lensing of the picturesque town.
Olcay won best actress at the Istanbul fest.