‘Let’s Sin’: Thou shalt not kill

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- After grabbing the Best Film prize at last year’s Istanbul Film Festival with his fantastical film “Sen AydInlatIrsIn Geceyi” (Thou Gild’st The Even), Turkish director Onur unlu moved at the speed of light and is presenting his latest feature, “ItirazIm Var” (Let’s Sin), in the national feature competition section of this year’s Istanbul festival.

The timing of the film’s festival premiere is “manidar” (meaningful), as one would say in Turkish, since the film will also be released in theaters this week, but more importantly its subject matter has much to do with the current sociopolitical and moral situation of the country.

On that note, there will be many factions that will be disturbed by the director’s stylistic approach to illustrating religious practices and might even forward a motion to get the film banned, but the film’s heart is definitely in the right place and its main issue is to hint at the hypocrisy of people who use religion for their own gain.

Don’t get me wrong this is not a heavyweight intellectual drama. Quite the contrary, this is a detective action-comedy with an unexpected main character: Our detective is a mosque’s imam!

Longtime unlu collaborator Serkan Keskin is Selman Bulut, a middle-aged imam whose intellectual and philosophical aspirations make him out to be a witty, wise, honest and open-minded religious leader. He is much respected and admired in his neighborhood, which is a part of Istanbul’s Karaköy district, and all he wants to do is lead an honest life.

One day a man is killed in his mosque and because Bulut does not believe that the police are doing a good job of trying to solve the murder, he decides to take matters into his own hands. He starts suspecting his own muezzin and the street children of the neighborhood, and tries to follow all the leads he can. The problem is that Bulut already has a lot to deal with on his plate: He’s trying to deal with the fact that his daughter (Hazal Kaya) has already moved in with her hapless boyfriend (Öner Erkan) out of wedlock and, even worse, he’s got a committee from the Religious Affairs Directorate inspecting his mosque.

Bit by bit, Bulut will get to the bottom of the murder with the help of some of his odd friends and on the way encounters dangerous and shady characters trying to kill him. The police are never of much help. In fact, at one point they suspect the good imam of perpetrating the crime.

Indeed the murder will be solved within the conventions of the genre but the film’s ably crafted structural mathematics is not the main element that makes it unforgettable and unique. It is the idiosyncratic humor and ingenuity of unlu’s dialogues (co-penned by SIrrI Surreya Önder) that create an utterly unforgettable political and social satire. The film is consistently questioning the meaning of morality and puts forward the idea that the cosmetic practice of religion does not denote the existence of spirituality or of being a “good person.”

Bulut might be a subversive character in Keskin’s atypical portrayal, but his main priorities are always to protect the weak, to search for the truth and to fight against corruption.

One must also mention Keskin’s performance at this point — the man has such great timing for comedy while managing to embody a human and compassionate face that he grabs our attention from start to finish. I would hope that unlu and Keskin continue their collaboration and bring about a Selman Bulut sequel for the big screen.

This is a mischievous film and greatly enjoyable to watch its satirical elements are the kind which anyone in Turkey (whatever segment of society)an relate to. Surely stubborn and rigid minds will be offended by various elements (especially the use of music and a sequence with alcohol intakes), but if watched with an open mind, “Let’s Sin” has much to offer to anyone who would like to laugh and think at the same time.

It’s great to see that Turkish comedy is not only in the hands of filmmakers who prefer toilet humor.

(CihanToday’s Zaman)