Wedding day in a small Turkish village Ayse (Begum Akkaya) is about to be married and leave her village to head to Vienna. Her betrothed Hasan (Murathan Muslu) is reveling amongst the men when Ayse emerges in traditional attire to complete the ceremony. The next day the family packs up to head back to Austria. Ayse says her goodbyes to her family and as they pull away amongst the stone buildings the local kids chase after the vehicle down the dirt road.
Once back in the family apartment in Vienna the truth behind the marriage is revealed. Ayse is to be second wife (Kuma) of family patriarch Mustafa (Vedat Erincin). Hasan his second son played groom in order to bring Ayse into Austria. They family do not reveal the truth to community or extended relatives. The arrangement leads to an first night for Ayse as one by one the family leaves the living room including Mustafa's wife and family matriarch Fatima (Nihal Koldas) leaving Ayse and Mustafa alone for the first time.
Director Umut Dag brings to the screen an intimate look at the inner workings of a Turkish Austrian family. The roles of the females and males are strictly defined. The family follows Sharia law and the acceptance of these roles is out of the ordinary in western society. Fatima is the most welcoming to the arrival of Ayse. She is having health concerns undergoing chemo therapy and sees Ayse as her replacement that she can teach how to take care of her family before she's gone.
The drawback of the film is the way that it was shot. Cinematographer Carsten Thiele had no independent ideas or style for the feature. It's either a lack of vision in the shooting or the writing area but and over abundance of scenes end with not transition and just the standard fade to black. The piece only had two notable scene shifts one when the family attend a funeral beginning with a small patch of flowering grass plants then expanding to an overhead shot of the complete field showing the men surrounding the grave site while the women huddled a distance away. The second occurs when Ayse sinks to the ground in a hallway after receiving devastating news one evening. When she rises from the floor it's morning of the next day.
Costume Designer Cinzai Cioffi did a great job creating the traditional turkish outfits. The bride's dress at the wedding featured the customary fabrics, woven precious metals and lace outlines. The young males were well represented in their groomsmen attire. The red scarf accenting Hasan's outfit stood out to signify that he was the groom. The wardrobe of the female characters rings authentic throughout the piece. When friends and family meet the couple the visiting females are adorned in heavy gold fabrics and colourful Hijab's. Even the scarfs that the children where at home are well appointed. The soundtrack features established Turkish pieces. The wind instruments and drums pierce over the voices at the wedding ceremony. A single guitar plays as Ayse leaves her village to head to Vienna.
The strength of the film is the acting by the female characters. Nihal Koldas is wonderful as the family matriarch Fatima. She is the most accepting of her husbands second wife and continues to support her when events do not unfold as planned. Begum Akkaya is solid as Ayse the Kuma. Her character grows from the timid village girl to mother/auntie and a main contributor to the family. Dilara Karabayir performs well as the middle daughter Nurcan who is most upset at Ayse at the beginning but helps her to learn German and turns out to be her main defender at a critical point in the film.
Ulmut Dag presents a thought-provoking story on an intriguing topic. The film has many notable performances but in the end it seems like Dag could have done more with the material. The failing of this movie is on the production side. On balance it is not a film that I can recommend.
** Out of 4.
Kuma | Ulmut Dag | Austria | 2012| 93 Minutes.
Polygamy, Religion, Affair, Cancer, Islamic Laws, Village Life, Transplanted Community.