Sequel to sleeper hit ‘Dugun Dernek’ cannot fill first film’s shoes

So it’s no surprise that film studio BKM commissioned a sequel in order to ride on the first film’s wave of success and has booked some 362 cinema locations throughout the country for the film’s first weekend.

But you see, here is the catch: When one says 362 locations, that means the film is being shown on an average of two or three screens in one multiplex, so it would not be wrong to assume the film is actually running on an average number of 800 cinema screens — basically half of the screens in the entire country.

But now, let’s just leave aside the grandiose statistics involved with this film and focus on the background.

This comedy series is the brainchild of a young director named Selcuk Aydemir and two very talented comedy actors, Ahmet Kural and Murat Cemcir, who weren’t so lucky at the beginning of their career with their first film, “Calgı Cengi,” a smart and unique absurdist comedy, but later reached a wide number of viewers with their hit TV comedy “İsler Gucler.” The team eventually shot the first “Dugun Dernek” under the radar, but something extremely wild happened: The film became a sleeper hit amongst Turkish audiences, and with little publicity but strong word-of-mouth this piece of burlesque cinema was transformed into the darling of mainstream audiences who in 2013 and 2014 were looking to lighten their mood through life-affirming stories during the highly politically unstable environment.

Sure the boys were lucky due to the sociological dynamics of the country back then, but also the film was just completely hilarious — even for those audiences who ignored the everyday provincial humor.

The film took place in a town near Sivas (everyone had a Sivas accent that one had to listen closely to pick up on), revolving around a community’s anxiety to organize a wedding for the town’s young and handsome boy Tarık, who is to marry a Latvian woman.

The jokes were coming every two minutes and the tempo was quick and snappy, but most importantly there was an incredibly intricate screenplay in that film that intelligently intertwined the huge ensemble cast and allowed them to shine. The cast was led by Kural, who played bottled gas seller Fikret, and Cemcir performing as Cetin, the town’s devout Muslim. The two men are highly adept in using their body language alongside their verbal virtuosity. Kural in particular is a very a interesting case for at times he reminds one of a mixture of Charlie Chaplin and Kemal Sunal.

So the drama and the comedy continue with the sequel, this time focusing on the circumcision ceremony of Tarık’s 5-year-old son. All the characters are back and enjoying themselves, but this time around the jokes are not as frequent and smart as in the first film and the screenplay has some very fundamental problems with regards to rhythm. I watched the film not at the press screening but with a very enthusiastic audience that was more than ready to laugh at every given opportunity, yet their enthusiasm could not be completely satisfied due to the narrative’s languorous editing and lack of sustainable gags. It seems the team could have taken some time to further develop their story instead of rushing for a screening only two years after the first film’s release. Then again, this is the Turkish film industry, ladies and gents: Once you have a chicken laying a golden egg, the very next day you must pump it with hormones so it can give you more eggs!

In this light I am highly curious about another sequel coming to theaters very soon, the romantic comedy “Kocan Kadar Konus 2,” whose predecessor was released only a year ago. Let’s hope this sequel can live up to the legend the first movie turned into for female viewers.

Lo and behold, the possibility sparking the most curiosity at this moment regarding “Dugun Dernek 2” is the ongoing debate amongst many cineastes as to whether it will reach the same admission numbers as the first film. Cinema being a risky business, I wouldn’t count on it.