It is 1975. In Tirebolu, on the Black Sea, while Turkish census takers interview elderly Ayshe (Rüçhan Caliskur, superb—best actress, Istanbul), Ayshe’s older sister, long ill, collapses and needs to be rushed to hospital—and still the census people want to go on recording their facts and figures, which in Ayshe’s case conceal rather than disclose her identity. Nearly 60 years ago, the Ottoman army enforced deadly deportations, driving out into the cold winter Greek Orthodox Christian villagers. Ayshe’s younger brother was one of these, but, fearful of her fate, Ayshe hid herself in her adoptive Turkish Muslim family and lived a lie for a lifetime. Following her sister’s death, she makes her journey as Eleni to find her long lost brother in Greece.
“Inspired” by the novel Tamama by Georgios Andreadis, Yesim Ustaoglu’s Bulutlari beklerken is a more oblique work than her stunning Journey to the Sun (1999), but again a fully human one. One must measure the lifetime it has taken Ayshe to embrace her identity—whatever that means, given how lovingly she bonded with her “second family”—against her enduring fear of discovery in the context of Turkish atrocities and denials, not to mention Turkish fearmongering against its Soviet neighbor during the Cold War. When she finally reaches her brother, he doubts that she is his sister; who can believe such a thing? But his wife lets in Ayshe, for both her husband’s and this woman’s sake. Eleni’s brother pours over his family photographs and finds Eleni nowhere. He shows her she is nowhere. Silently she shows him an older family photograph than he has ever seen, and both of them, as children, are there. The photograph comes alive—as old film: sister and brother at play. Long ago.
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