Saturday, March 15, 2008

Euro 2008 Film Festival: Group A, Turkey

Film Festival Rules & Guidelines
Film selected (Year, Director): Harem suaré (1999, Ferzan Ozpetek)
Rating: 7/10
Rules compliance: I have seen a previous film by Ferzan Ozpetek, so the selection is not compliant with picking something from a new director.
Relevance to Soccer: Collecting and hoarding people

Through most of the 1980's, European soccer clubs had a foreign player quota and could only feature two players from an international nation. In the late 80's, that rule was loosened slightly and teams could field upto 3 foreign players. AC Milan led the way by fielding the three Dutchmen (Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard) who led them to domestic and European glory. Then in the early 1990's, the rules were changed once again and any European team could have upto 6 foreign players on their books but could only play 3 for a given game (that included the starting 11 players + 5 substitutes). Once again, Milan signed a bunch of talented players such as Boban, Dejan Savićević, Marcel Desailly and Jean Pierre Papin (at that time he was one of Europe's leading goal scorers) . Since Milan could only play 3 of their superstars, the remaining 3 sat in the stands unused. Other teams complained that Milan were hoarding the best players in the world and preventing them from displaying their talents week in and week out.

By the mid 1990's, European soccer changed once again in that teams could sign as many players from within the European Union nations without any quotas(thanks to the Bosman court ruling). The only quota applied to players from outside Europe. As a result, teams from most European leagues started buying the best young talent other European nations. And when the European Cup was modified into the Champions League, the top European teams were playing atleast 2 games a week (one league game on the weekend and a European game in mid-week). These extra games required these teams to buy atleast 2 quality players for each position. Teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Milan started attracting some of the biggest names in the game, only for half of their star players to sit on the bench, waiting for their chance. As it stands in the current game, the top teams from England, Spain, France, Italy and Germany have a galaxy of star players, most of whom only get a game when the regular first team players are injured or suspended. But given that these teams play more than 50 games a season, they need to have a big squad, because injuries could hamper the first team. However, there are plenty of other teams which could benefit from just a few of these star players. Sometimes, the big teams loan out their players to other teams so that they can get regular match practice. But in most cases, the talented players keep waiting for their chance.

One of the definitions of a harem is when a king has multiple wives or lovers. However, the king won't require all the women at any given time. When the king gets tired of his regular lover, he picks another younger woman, until he gets tired of her. Still, the king maintains a collection of women around just in case.

The Turkish film Harem suaré is about such a situation where the Sultan maintains a harem of women. However, only a few lucky women get the honor of becoming the Sultan's regular lover or even spending a night with him. Naturally, the competition among the women is fierce to get into the Sultan's chambers. I found this situation similar to modern soccer teams where multiple talented players are eager to make the first team. Most of these young players train every day, hoping to one day impress the first team boss. Some players only get one chance but fail to impress and find themselves shut out of the club. In Harem suaré, we meet a young woman Safiye (Marie Gillain) who has been patiently waiting her turn to become the Sultan's chosen one. However, as chance would have it, a younger woman arrives threatening her position. Safiye's situation is made difficult due to the changing political climate in the Ottoman Empire, as a young Turkish revolution threatens to break the Sultan's hold on power.

So what can all the young women do while waiting for the Sultan to notice them? Some of them take on side lovers, like Safiye. This is akin to soccer players getting loaned out to other teams, who can appreciate their talents. And as it often happens in soccer, the loaned out player finds himself much happier in his new team and prefers to leave the top European team because he can get a regular game at this new team. Safiye also finds more happiness in the arms of another man, as opposed to waiting for the Sultan to make up his mind.

Final shots:

Harem suaré is structured in terms of two flashback stories. In the inner story when the narrator finishes her tale, she mentions that as per the rules of story telling & God's instructions, one should distribute three apples upon the story's conclusion -- one for the narrator, one for the listener and the final apple for the heroes of the story.

In the film's final shots, the camera zooms in on a table where the narrator and listener sat at the film's start for the principle flashback tale. Both of them have left the table but only 3 apples are left to signify the rules of the story telling. As the camera gets closer to this beautiful shot of the apples, I realized that this final shot of the film is also the final shot of my 16 film Euro 2008 Film Festival.

I can't think of a more beautiful way for this film and also for my film festival to end. The stories have been told. Everyone has gone. Cinematic food for thought! Fade to Black!!!!

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