A strong cast, mixing youngsters with veterans, and smooth production values make “The Waterfall” a consistently entertaining, if hardly original, period dramedy. Full of colorful characters in a small village during a watershed in recent Turkish history, picture is a solid entry for film weeks and TV programmers looking for accessible ethnic fare.
Setting is Harbiye, a hill suburb just south of Antakya (modern Antioch) in southeast Turkey; period is May ’60, when political feelings were running high in the country and the army was about to step in to curb abuses of power by the ruling Democratic Party. Central character is Cemal (Enis Aslanyurek), a playful kid who’s apprenticed to a larger-than-life barber, Selim (Tuncel Kurtiz), who has an opinion on everything from Marshall Aid through Turkish troops being sent to Korea, to local schoolchildren being forced to drink U.S. Army milk.
Cemal’s father, Yusuf (Aykut Oray), a construction foreman, is a staunch democrat and anti-communist; Cemal’s uncle, Suleyman (Ali Surmeli), is the political opposite. Though they live in adjoining houses, the two men haven’t spoken for years and have even built a wall between them in the shared courtyard. However, their wives, Semra (Hulya Kocyigit) and Cemile (Canan Hosgor), get on just fine.
Large cast includes the full spectrum of political views and lively characters (including a husband who’s always chasing his promiscuous young wife with a cleaver), plus small events that momentarily set villager against villager. When the local waterfall — where women traditionally go to recount their dreams — is dynamited during construction of a new factory, things come to a head between corrupt local businessmen and conservative locals.
Very professionally mounted, with an engaging score by Sunay Ozgur, pic keeps a fine balance between its kid cast (both at home and at school) and older characters. Among the latter, Kurtiz dominates whenever he’s onscreen as the bald, loudmouthed barber with a secret passion for ethnic flutes and Josef Stalin; Oray and Surmeli are nicely matched as the warring brothers; and the veteran Kocyigit, one of Turkish cinema’s most distinguished actresses, provides quiet support throughout as Cemal’s mom.