Do Not Forget Me Istanbul - Hany Abu-Assad, Eric Nazarian, Aida Begiç, Stefan Arsenijević, Stergios Niziris, Omar Shargawi, Josefina Markarian

Portmanteau pictures are invariably scrappy affairs, with the link connecting them often seeming tenuous in the extreme. But, in seeking to reveal different aspects of Istanbul and its people, producers Hüseyin Karabey and Sevil Demirci manage to achieve a level of consistency that owes much to screenwriter Petros Markaris supervising five days of workshopping to ensure the six film-makers from Eastern Europe and the Middle East fashioned stories that not only reflected their own personal experiences of the bustling metropolis, but also meshed together to show how Istanbul and its history belongs to the whole world.

A clash of cultures informs Bosnian Aida Begic's `Otel(o)', as actress Alma Terzic arrives in Istanbul to play Desdemona in a new production of Shakespeare's Othello and finds herself becoming increasingly stressed by the incessant jealous phone calls made by the boyfriend who booked her into a swanky downtown hotel. Eventually, Terzic hangs up and asks room service maid Ayça Damgaci to help her run lines. But Damgaci turns out to be a fine actress and her realistic interpretation of the Moor shocks Terzic into gaining a new perspective on her relationship.

Serb Stefan Arsenijevic springs a bigger surprise in `Mirko', as retired headmaster Svetozar Cvetkovic and wife Mira Furlan trudge through the Aksaray district buying the cheap gadgets they sell at a small profit back home. However, they are supposed to be on holiday for thr first time in their lives and Furlan is unhappy at the relentless pace her husband is keeping. During one argument, they become separated and she gets lost in the back alleys behind the crowded shopping centre and comes face to face with Ahmet Rifat Sungar, who is the spitting image of the son she presumed had been killed during the civil wars that ripped the Balkan apart during the 1990s.

Yorgos Symeonidis is a more regular visitor to Istanbul, as he frequently travels by train from Thessaloniki for business meetings. But, in Stergios Niziris's `Half-Moon Strangers', he is keener than usual to get home as quickly as possible after being ripped off by shopkeeping client Settar Tanriögen. The only trouble is, his bag has been stolen by a mugger who struck him and, in relying on the mysterious Süreyya Güzel to help him retrieve it, he begins to see a new side to the city he dislikes so much and becomes increasingly drawn to the alluring stranger.

By contrast, first-time visitor and acclaimed Oud player Jacky Nercessian is enchanted by the city in American director Eric Nazarian's `Bolis'. He didn't expect to, however, as his Armenian grandfather had been forced to flee in 1915 and the family had always painted the place as a den of iniquity. But every street seems curiously familiar and, while waiting to give a concert, Nercessian decides to see if he can find the instrument shop his grandfather had left behind almost a century before. Amazingly, armed only with a faded photograph, he strikes lucky straight away. But, with his mind filling with memories that can't possibly be his own, he begins to wonder whether luck has anything to do with it.

Rather than being a repository of lost secrets, Istanbul is merely a convenient meeting place in Omar Shargawi's `The Jewish Girl'. Palestinian writer Ali Suliman is based in London, but he had a fling with Liraz Charhi while in Israel to negotiate a movie deal. He hopes that their physical attrac ion will help them get over their cultural and political differences. But, over the course of what is supposed to be a romantic weekend, the pair begin bickering between the bouts of love-making and Suliman begins to wonder if Charhi is really the woman she pretends to be.

Finally, fellow Palestinian Hany Abu-Assad stage another reunion in `Almost', as two sisters prepare to meet for the first time in 62 years. Following the creation of Israel in 1948, Hiam Abbass relocated to Syria and has never returned to her homeland, while her sibling has endured the nightmare of the occupation and decades of terror and intimidation. As there are few places to which they are both allowed to travel, the pair agree to rendezvous in Istanbul. But, as Abbass walks the last 500 metres, the busy city forces her to confront her conflicting thoughts and emotions.

Empire Online - David Parkinson

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