62nd Berlinale Review: “Beyond the Hill” by Emin Alper

A Turkish-Greek co-production – the feature debut of a promising Turkish director – takes a closer look at the psychology of an entire country, riddled with humorous undertones.

Picture a long stretch of idyllic scenery in the depths of Anatolia. An isolated farmhouse is buried deep inside a breathtaking canyon, surrounded by trickling streams, vast open plains and a beautiful poplar forest. It’s home to a retired forester, who lives with the family that works his land. One spring day, his divorced son and his two grandsons pop by for a visit. It’s not the most opportune moment, as the ageing forester is locked in a fierce dispute with the nomads, whose goats graze on his land and destroy his crop. Once he slaughters one of the roving animals “in return for the damages” and to celebrate his son’s arrival, the tension will inevitably mount and a shotgun carelessly falling into the hands of his youngest grandson is probably not the best way to resolve the problem.

Emin Alper’s feature debut, which started out at the Crossroads co-production forum of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival later to be completed with the assistance of Greek post-production house 2|35, definitely deserves some attention. From the impressive natural surroundings to the brilliant character study and the subtle ironies that cut like a knife, it’s clear there’s talent at work here. Structured like a western or a slow-burn thriller, the more the plot advances the more it resembles a pitch black comedy about how easy it is to conjure up imaginary enemies and put the blame on others when you’re the one with the problem. Mob psychology can be a dangerous thing, especially when you’re looking for scapegoats or, in this case, plain old goats!

Focusing on a tiny, isolated corner of Anatolia, the film encapsulates the entire country without even trying. “The political situation in Turkey is intrinsic to my film,” says Alper. “Rallying against a common enemy is standard operating procedure in Turkey. The Kurdish issue, the talk of “enemy forces conspiring against the Turkish people” or even the conflict between the conservatives and the Kemalists are weapons of political polarization. We are experiencing a reality where it’s impossible to sustain a serious discussion and political opinions are based on conspiracy theories.”

Is it just us, or does this sound a little too similar to what’s happening back home?

Click here for more information on “Beyond the Hill”