With his luminously lensed first feature, “Turquaze,” Kadir Balci joins the roster of talented helmers of Turkish descent working abroad. A pensively joyous romance with a dash of ethnic angst, the pic introduces a trio of Turkish brothers living in Belgium who redefine family dynamics after their father’s death. While two of the siblings embody the opposite poles of assimilation, Balci concentrates on the middle son and his love affair with a perky Flemish blonde, charting a search for cultural equilibrium. Skedded for late September release in Belgium, “Turquaze” might shine as a modest European sleeper.
Pic has a symmetry Goldilocks could appreciate: Eldest brother Ediz (Nihat Alptug Altinkaya) reps his Turkish father’s authoritarian old ways, discouraging his wife (Hilal Sonmez) from learning Flemish while he himself revives an affair with a Flemish former flame (Maaike Cafmeyer). The youngest brother, 18-year-old Bora (Sinan Vanden Eynde), is too ready to conform — technologically addicted, and prone to whatever mischief his assorted delinquent pals dream up. Timur (the helmer’s brother Borak Balci), on the other hand, strikes a perfect balance between honoring his heritage and opening his mind to his adoptive country.
Timur works as a guard in an art museum, which suits his contemplative nature well, the museum’s painted landscapes recalling his grandfather’s descriptions of the Turkish countryside. But he’s a musician by training and inclination, and he experiences his epiphany of perfect integration when he auditions for a brass band, fulfilling his father’s never-attempted dream. Despite some casual cultural insensitivity about his name (“I’ll just call you Tim”), the bandleader readily grants him a tryout, during which the other members spontaneously pick up the unfamiliar melody as he plays.
In “Turquaze,” music proves an infectious universal language, a notion made more than just a quaint sentiment by Bert Ostyn’s dazzling original score, which incorporates everything from string quartets to Turkish marches, his track intermingling rock orchestrations and folk tunes.
This interactive harmony also reigns in Timur’s relationship with Belgian girlfriend Sarah (Charlotte Vandermeersch) — but only as long as the couple keep their relationship to themselves. Once their prejudiced, opinionated relatives intrude, discord holds sway, and the couple broods, breaks up and must cross borders and continents for the chance to reunite.
Balci’s young protagonists, though perfectly capable of stupidity and shortsightedness, mostly come off as patient, caring and intelligent, displaying a level of sanity both welcome and rare in a domestic drama. It’s a spirit consistent with the casual symmetry of director Balci’s script and the intimacy achieved by Ruben Impens’ free-flowing photography.