Greek filmmaker Angelos Abazoglou’s docufiction about a teenage pastry chef living in Istanbul will screen in competition at the Generation 14plus section for children and young people.
The film tells the story of Mustafa, a 16-year-old Turk, who works as a pastry chef’s apprentice in Gaziantep, the “baklava capital” of Turkey. His dream is to start his own business in Istanbul and become a famous pastry chef.
“Mustafa’s Sweet Dreams” explores eastern pastry techniques, the result of a long and fruitful collaboration between Greek, Arab and French chefs who have worked together for centuries combining their traditions and individual customs in order to create the perfect dessert.
Through images of everyday life in contemporary Turkey, the director documents Mustafa’s struggles to escape his dour routine and make his dreams come true. The camera elegantly captures problems shared by a large percentage of young people, who dream of overnight fame fortune as they struggle to survive life in the big city. With both feet firmly planted on the ground, Abazoglou is realistic but never loses his sensitivity.
Born in Athens to former Istanbul natives, Abazoglou moved with his family to Paris when he was only three months old. Since them, he has made a series of non-fiction films, including “Murder at the Agora” and “Zaharoff, the Mystery Man of Europe”. Most of his work has been co-produced by Arte, same as “Mustafa’s Sweet Dreams” whose long list of producers includes Cyclope Productions, ERT, Al Jazeera and a series of European channels and also boasts the support of MEDIA.
A first version of the film, focusing on the tradition and the preparation of baklava, screened in Turkey last September as part of the festivities after Istanbul became one of three European Capitals of Culture. The same version was later screened in Athens, as part of the CineDoc non-fiction showcase, following its Arte airing.
The final version of the film, participating at the Berlinale, will be focusing on the young protagonist’s dreams as filtered through his life story. There’s nothing like being 16 with your whole life ahead of you, a life full of temptation – sweet or otherwise.
“I always saw Istanbul through the eyes of a tourist until I started shooting. It was the first time I really felt I belonged there,” said the filmmaker in an interview with Turkish newspaper Hurriyet after screening the first version of “Mustafa’s Sweet Dreams” in Istanbul last September.
To him, the process of making baklava is nothing less than a metaphor for self-discovery and a journey to the ends of the world. The film also addresses the teacher-intern relationship, a very dynamic institution in both Turkish education and everyday life, informed by the filmmaker’s bond with his own father. “In order to explore this phenomenon, I had to completely immerse myself in the pastry culture. Although both the techniques and the relationships between professionals have changed, they both reflect a tradition that’s still struggling to gain its footing in the modern world.”