The M.V. Film Society continues its International Film Festival through Sunday, Sept. 13, with films from seven different countries. The International Shorts Program is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 12.
From Turkey comes the drama “Toprak,” also on Sept. 12, and directed by Sevgi Hirschhauser. It is her first feature film.
Set in a pomegranate orchard, Cemil (Numan Çakir) and his nephew, the teenaged orphan Burak (Burak Aydin), sell the fruit at a roadside stand. Cemil is religious, and viewers see him praying at a mosque. Burak studies in preparation for his university exam. “Let me teach you how to fish before you teach me how to read and write,” says Cemil.
When Cemil’s mother becomes ill with pancreatic cancer, he is desperate to find the money for an operation. Donating a kidney seems to be the only way, and he does it. While waiting for his uncle to return with his grandmother, Burak fixes and then rides his motorbike, suggesting a certain aimlessness, and continues to harvest and sell the pomegranates.
The poignancy of “Toprak” comes from its depiction of rural life in Turkey and the relationship between Burak and his uncle. When Cemil develops an infection that makes him seriously ill, it creates a crisis for this impoverished family that resolves the film.
‘Daughter of Mine’
The final film of the festival comes on Sunday, Sept. 13, with the Italian drama “Daughter of Mine.” Directed by Laura Bispuri, it was nominated for a Best Film award at the Berlin Film Festival.
This drama concerns the relationship between two women and the daughter, Vittoria (Sara Casu), whom they both claim. About to turn 10, young Vittoria is distinguished by her brilliant red hair. Tina (Valeria Golino) is the devoted mother viewers see. Vittoria seems to love her, but she is attracted to Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher), a wild and promiscuous young woman. Angelica is about to be evicted from the farm where she raises horses and tends other animals.
At a rodeo, Vittoria is shocked to discover Angelica having illicit sexual relations with a man. Wanting to go home, she hugs her erstwhile mother Tina. For much of the film, Angelica’s relationship to Vittoria is unclear. For instance, Tina climbs the rural hillside to Angelica’s farm, where she shovels manure and cleans up to help out. The film cuts back and forth between Tina and Angelica, along with their relationship to Vittoria, raising questions about who is more committed to the little girl.
The film focuses on Vittoria as she struggles to decide which of the two women she will devote herself to. In the back and forth between Tina and Angelica, Tina decides to give Angelica money to pay for her rent, but this crazy young woman manages to wrest it back from the farm’s owner. When Tina plans a birthday party for her, Vittoria doesn’t show up. Instead, she spends her birthday with Angelica.
At the nearby hillside necropolis, or Etruscan burial ground, Angelica urges Vittoria to squeeze into a tiny entrance to an underground cave. It is supposed to harbor a fortune that will prevent the foreclosure to Angelica’s farm. Fearing for the worst, Tina frantically tries to find Vittoria. The denouement to “Daughter of Mine” determines whom Vittoria will commit herself to, in a film that depicts the conflicts that drive this affecting story that closes the festival.
Information and tickets for “Toprak” and “Daughter of Mine” are available online at the Film Center or virtually at mvfilmsociety.com.