Director: Yesim Ustaoglu | 87 minutes | drama | Actors: Rüchan Caliskur, Ridvan Yagci, Ismail Baysan, Dimitrios Kamperidis, Feride Karaman, Suna Selen, Oktar Durukan, Jannis Georgiadis, Irene Tachmatzidou, Damoklia Mustakidou, Fatma Parlagi
An old, traumatized woman in a remote mountain village tries a film for a long time to come to terms with her past. That does not produce a film full of adrenaline kicks. “Waiting for the Clouds” has therefore become a particularly slow film. However, the story is told with a sense of detail and great integrity.
A strong point of the film is the interweaving of a personal history with a historical tragedy. Director Yesim Ustaoglu exposes the inhumanity of history by portraying the story of the flight of a number of Greek villages from the Ottoman army at a micro level. Apparently Ayshe seems to be totally integrated into the life of the village and its inhabitants, but as the film progresses it becomes clear that in many ways she has always remained an outsider. The customs, rituals and family and village relationships do not apply to her as they do to the native population.
The history of Ayshe also means that she does not build family life as usual. Except with her adopted family and neighbor, Mehmet, who, like her, does not completely fit within the conventions of the community, she actually has only superficial contact with her fellow villagers. Her sister’s death and the arrival of an outsider are necessary to get her moving and to make her aware of trying to come to terms with her past at this late stage in her life.
Ustaoglu is extremely appealing to the patience of her audience with “Waiting for the Clouds”. Very little happens. The protagonist hardly develops. The only changes in the film are the death of her adopted sister and the contact she gradually seeks with the outside world. The story does offer an oppressive insight into a closed Turkish community of the new Turkish Republic in the 1970s. Family is most important in this society and the state tries to force its place through indoctrination in the schools. A stuffy environment for a woman with a secret with no family in a foreign country.
The second storyline is that of Mehmet, which illustrates life in the Turkish community. Dissenters and critical minds are not appreciated in 1970s Turkey. Mehmet has trouble fitting in with the nationalist straitjacket at school. He finds his ally in a friend who has a communist father. The two dissenters always meet just outside the village, on the edge of the community. The community condemns, society is repressive, both in the case of Mehmet and that of Ayshe. Mehmet is an outsider at home and at school due to his inability to fit in. The women who try to help Ayshe do so without respect for the individuality of the woman. Turkish superstition must protect its Greek soul. This becomes all the more painful as we learn more about Ayshe. Both are connected in the alienation from their environment.
Ayshe’s story is important to tell. The atrocities committed by the Ottoman army are an underexposed history. The trauma of a generation of Greeks from this area are worth paying attention to. More often than not, history is not taught, but all the attention that is given to it can help prevent new mistakes. The story of Ayshe in combination with the second storyline of Mehmet makes it clear that a second mistake in 1970s Turkey is not far off. Yesim Ustaoglu has turned a footnote in world history into a beautiful personal portrait. For those who have the patience to sit it out, a reward in the form of a film that you will not soon forget.