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Review: Beyto (2020)

Beyto (2020)

Directed by: Gitta Gsell | 98 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Burak Ates, Dimitri Stapfer, Ecem Aydin, Beren Tuna, Serkan Tastemur, Zeki Bulgurcu, Müjdat Albak, Délia Antonio, Danijela Milijic Stojcetovic, Zeynep Sanli, Ebru Koyun, Mustafa Basalan, Reto Rieder, Mustafa Kuzucu, Sakem Rash Mendi Gezer, Ahmet Talay, Mustafa Soner Saymen, Yusuf Yetkin, Alen Huseyin Gursoy, Fatma Nilgun Islamoglu, Edanur Sahin, Büsra Keten, Rabia Genc

Yusuf Yesilgöz came to Switzerland as a refugee from Turkey’s Central Anatolia in 1987, where he opened a bookstore and started a publishing house and founded a publishing house for Kurdish literature. He also writes books himself; one of his most acclaimed novels is ‘Hochzeitsflug’ (‘Bridal Flight’) from 2011. Swiss filmmaker Gitta Gsell read the book and immediately felt that there was a movie in the story about the young Turk Beyto who gets caught between his own feelings and the expectations that his family has of him. ‘At the time I was teaching young people, I heard how they spoke and I saw what problems young people with a migration background face. I understood very well why the characters in Yusuf’s book reacted the way they did. Beyto’s parents want to continue the traditions of their Turkish village in their new homeland of Switzerland. They still dream of the bone-dry hills of Anatolia and are not very receptive to the influences of modern Switzerland. Beyto, on the other hand, is torn between his cultural heritage and the freedoms of the western world. He finds his way between the familiar cohesion of his family and the seductive adventures that life in free Europe offers him.”

Gsell’s book adaptation ‘Beyto’ (2020) initially looks like a coming-of-age story like many have already been made. Beyto (newcomer Burak Ates) is a popular boy and the apple of his parents’ (Beren Tuna and Serkan Tastemur) eye. He swims at a high level, gets good grades at his internship, has friends from both Swiss and Turkish backgrounds and regularly helps his parents in their kebab restaurant. An exemplary boy, that Beyto. But then he falls head over heels in love. Not on Nina, the girl his friends want to pair him with, but on Mike (Dimitri Stapfer), his swimming coach. That’s when his seemingly perfect life begins to crumble. Not because he has doubts about his sexuality or because Mike does not want him – the two show each other in no uncertain way that they like the other – but because his choice for Mike does not fit the ideal image that his parents have. had mapped out for him. Because even before he has gathered the courage to come out, his mother is told by a loose-lipped aunt that she has seen him during a Pride parade in the heart of Bern. Out of sheer panic, Mom and Dad – who see only one way out to protect the family’s honor and tradition – organize a lightning wedding between Beyto and his childhood friend Seher (Ecem Aydi). However, they forget to inform their son of the plans and lure him, ostensibly because of a dying grandmother, to their native village, a hamlet in the middle of nowhere in Anatolia, with no opportunity to contact Mike. Suddenly, Beyto finds himself back in an impossible love triangle: how can he stay true to Mike without destroying Seher’s future?

It will come as no surprise that Beyto’s parents are not thrilled with the news that their only son is attracted to men. That predictable conflict puts Gsell into the background, in favor of a broader theme around migration and Beyto’s parents’ aspiration to be successful immigrants, who fit the picture perfect. In their view, this includes a good education and ‘house, tree, animal’. A family consisting of a husband, wife and a couple of children – preferably a royal couple. A gay son having fun with his swimming coach doesn’t fit that picture. The image of the woman who is deliberately kept ‘stupid’ and who has to live in the service of her husband is also denounced, without a raised finger, incidentally. Seher, by the way played by debutante Ecem Aydi, turns out to be a lot less naive than we initially think. She would like nothing more than to get an education and live her life the way she wants. It is doubtful to what extent the idealistic solution offered by the film is workable and realistic. Is that bad? As a writer/director you have the freedom to give the events a strong twist in the direction that suits you best, for example because that makes the film just that little bit better. But the ending is not completely satisfying.

Gsell cast inexperienced actors for many roles – only Stapfer, Tuna and Tastemur have already proven themselves – and that gives the film the necessary authenticity. Although Stapfer received a Swiss Film Award for his supporting role in this film, it is he who is least able to convince us. Mike comes across as an impatient, grumpy and unsympathetic guy, although fortunately the chemistry and attraction between him and Ates is fine. For a debutant, the latter does surprisingly well, especially when you consider that he had to learn the tricks of the acting trade in a short time. Although he must be careful not to always show the same look when he is brooding and morose about his future. ‘Beyto’ is a multicultural story about love, emancipation and the longing for freedom and control. A film that is certainly not flawless, but made with the best intentions that makes you think about how self-evident we take those values ​​in the West.

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