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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2021 New Directors

Review: Between Two Dawns

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- Selman Nacar bows in New Directors with the picaresque journey of the son of a Turkish factory owner living under the umbrella of his father

Review: Between Two Dawns

The sound of machines whirring ever louder in a linen factory runs over the top of Between Two Dawns [+see also:
trailer
interview: Selman Nacar
film profile
]
' opening credits. Selman Nacar's first film debuted in New Directors at the San Sebastián Film Festival a year after it won two WIP Europa prizes in the Basque festival's work-in-progress sidebar (see the news).

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Then the steamers stop – a common problem in the dappled, sunlit factory bathed in a constant grey-blue hue, and no one seems too worried. But all that changes when the bosses start to get hot under the collar. It's a big day for Kadir (Mucahit Kocak), the clean-shaven, English-speaking manager of the factory, which is owned by his dad. In the evening, the charming young man is going to meet his girlfriend Esma's (Burcu Gölgedar) parents for the first time. It's a relationship that's been going on for some time, even though Kadir still hasn't told his own father, Ibrahim, that he wants to get married or that he smokes. The couple's modern outlook on love is in stark contrast with the traditional position they've taken at home.

The young lovers’ conversation is the first indication that work and family might get in the way of Kadir's best-laid plans. The tension between satisfying his family's wishes and living out his own life is about to spin out of control like a broken washing machine. The factory has cash-flow problems and must deliver a shipment immediately in order to get paid by the next week, or the family will suffer financial ruin. Then, midway through a video call with their Romanian clients, a worker is injured on the factory floor, suffering severe burns.

The calculating family lawyer (Erdem Senocak) counsels the father (Ünal Silver) and his two sons to try to get the injured worker's wife (Nezaket Erden) to sign a waiver, as there is potential for them to serve jail time if her husband goes into a coma or dies. One way to avoid prison is for one of the three owners to take the fall and leave the country.

The influence of Russia's great authors Chekhov and Dostoevsky on Turkish cinema has been widely known for many years through the Cannes Palme d'Or-winning work of Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Like them, Nacar's film is about a man's life running out of control. Kadir’s desire to help his family means that he doesn't acknowledge his own willingness to do things that are morally wrong, or how much he acts out of self-interest. His failure to take the reins of his own life is his road to ruin.

This is a strong debut from Nacar, whose interest lies in creating moral dilemmas and showing how those with power will do anything to retain their position, no matter the cost. The amount of dialogue needed to work through some of these situations makes the film feel static at times, even when the director tries to give a sense of motion with small camera movements. A prime example of this is when what should be a pivotal scene, showing Kadir revealing all to Esma, is taken up by exposition before finally elevating the stakes. But as a study on how moral incertitude leads to demise, it's well oiled and at least works better than the factory steamer.

Between Two Dawns is a Turkish-French-Spanish-Romanian co-production staged by Arizona Films Productions, Libra Film, Nephilim Producciones, Kuyu Film, Karma Film, Fol Film and TRT. Its international sales are handled by Luxbox.

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