The father-son bond is often complicated. It is one of those relationships that is defined by distance and silence. Most parents spend so much time on their professional lives that they find little time for their personal lives. This leads to a rift between the patriarch and his son. They distance themselves and find nothing to communicate with each other. Or maybe, you’re resenting your dad for a completely different reason (he must have been strict or something).
In Özcan Alper’s The Festival of the Minstrels, Yusuf (Kivanç Tatlitug) hates his father, Heves Ali (Settar Tanriögen), because he left him and his mother. Ali never visited Yusuf at his boarding school and did not try to contact him for 25 years. But one day, Ali knocks on Yusuf’s door and spends the night at his house. He decided to catch up with his son because he was in town. Ali has a plan: first she would like to visit Arkanya and then go to Kars for the festival mentioned in the film’s title. The next morning, Ali packs her bags and leaves without saying a word. Of course, Yusuf can’t let his father go like this. He follows the bus he took and decides to take it to Arkanya in his car.
The soundscape alternates between soft, sad melodies and silences. Both Yusuf and Ali are framed in such a way that our attention is drawn to the empty spaces around them. Even when they share the same frame, like on the couch at Yusuf’s house or during the scene where the car breaks down, they are seen separated from each other due to a large amount of negative space. The alienation is further accentuated through economic dialogues between them. They barely speak and give no answers when Yusuf demands to know why they abandoned him. Instead, Ali quietly motions for him to calm down. Perhaps he thinks an explanation won’t fix the damage. And given Ali’s condition (he suffers from a serious illness), the man simply wants to meet everyone close to him before taking a leave of absence.
That makes The Troubadour Festival a road trip movie. There are different types of trips made in the film. The first is the literal one, where Yusuf and Ali drive the car. The second is the internal one, where Yusuf’s resentment towards his father turns into reconciliation. The third is spiritual, where Ali moves from one world to another.
If you watch Yusuf carefully, you will find feelings of love and hate simultaneously on his face. He’s clearly mad at his father, but he can’t leave him alone either. In one scene, he tries to do it, but, unsurprisingly, he stops nearby and quickly makes a U-turn. However, the rage simmers so intensely within Yusuf that he dreams of strangling Ali. There is thunder and downpours during that scene, vehemently hinting at the storm brewing inside the boy.
Where the film fails, however, is in its treatment. I don’t think the understated approach does justice to a material that wants to squeeze our tear ducts dry. By refraining from drama, Alper neutralizes emotional feelings. Everything is so composed and ordered. Where is the mess of a broken heart when Ali dies? The shots are quite stable, drawing our attention towards the composition and away from the moving. The film tries to be subtle and has a sober tone, making us feel as if we are dragging a corpse. A movie like this should hurt, but it barely bites.
The Troubadour Festival, however, leaves you with a sad reflection. People may die, but your work continues to keep them alive. Ali physically passes away, but her music will keep her from fading into oblivion. And click a lot of selfies with your loved ones, and don’t forget to smile. Because years later, when you would look at those images, you probably won’t remember what state you were in before or after you clicked on a particular image. But you would definitely see how you and the person next to you were smiling happily at that moment.
Final score – [5.5/10]
Reviewed By – Vikas Yadav
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