‘Autumn’ Gives a Face and a Voice to Hemshin Narrative at the MFA

BOSTON, Mass. (A.W.) — On April 5, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) presented the last installment of its 8th Annual Boston Turkish Film and Music Festival with the U.S. Premiere of Hamshen-Armenian director Ozcan Alper’s film “Autumn” (“Sonbahar”).

The film revolves around Yusuf. Imprisoned for demonstrating against the Turkish government as a student in the Communist party, he is released after 10 years after contracting tuberculosis while in prison.

He returns to his kind but sickly mother and whiles away the days drinking raki with his childhood friend Mikail. As autumn slowly turns to winter, he begins a romantically platonic relationship with a Georgian prostitute—in Turkey on a work visa to support her daughter in Tbilisi.

As it states in the program summary, “Beyond the personal tragedy of a man who has nothing to look forward to, there lurks the bitter deception of a shattered socialist dream.”

Alper was born in 1975 in the small town of Artvin in northeastern Turkey. He studied physics at Istanbul University and later transferred his degree to the history of science at the same university. In the meantime, he grew interested in cinema and started to work in alternative cinema groups. In 1999, he started his professional career in filmmaking and worked in several films and TV serials as assistant director and production staff.

His first short film, “Momi” (“Grandmother”) received several awards, and was the first film ever shot in the Hemshin language. “Autumn” is Alper’s first feature film and was supported by the Turkish Cultural Ministry. Alper also writes film critiques in “Yeni Film,” a well-known cinema magazine in Turkey.

Melancholy is the key word to describe “Autumn,” but wise persons know that melancholy and sadness are not the same things. “Autumn” is beautiful in its transformation and ascendance, even when that ascendance is the stark realization of one’s own mortality. Like falling asleep in the snow, “Autumn” is beautiful and numbing in its grace with a yearning for life and compassion like roses in winter.

Like Alexander Sokurov’s “Russian Ark” (2002) or Harutyun Khachatryan’s “Return of the Poet” (2005), Alper’s “Autumn” stands as a celluloid khatchkar (Armenian cross-stone) to the beauty and long shadows of the collective Armenian tale and is not to be missed, lest another Armenian monument sink into oblivion in Turkey.

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Andy Turpin

Andy Turpin has been the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly since 2006. He was raised in Palma City, Fla. His family is of Italian, Welsh and Armenized-Romani stock. He graduated from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., with degrees in history and journalism. Following graduation, he went to Armenia as an English as a Second Language (ESL) U.S. Peace Corp volunteer. He received his CELTA-ESL degree from Cambridge University in 2006.

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