“Some women are lucky, unlike us”, says Nesirn (Asiye Dinçsoy), an aging vulnerable abandoned single mom to her friend and much wiser neighbor Hatun (Nazan Kesal).
Nesirn and Hatun are cleaning women from Kurdish origins, a history they sometime are willing to hide especially in modern Turkey, working the houses of much privileged women in suburban communities.
Since women’s suffrage and oppression are an international themes, “Toz Bezi” (Dust Cloth) takes to the much poorer neighbourhoods of Turkey, something not often visible in fancy westernised-Turkish soap operas, to follow the story of two women, whose unfortunates sound and look different, but eventually falls under the same umbrella of the misery of the working class in so called neoliberal communities.
Nesirn, admirable by her fragile beauty and her dignity, looks for a full time job with insurance and contract to be able to compensate the loss of her husband and the harsh reality of being a single mom raising her sweet playful daughter Asmin (Didem Inselel). Her breakdowns, agony, and exploding tears are well seen in the film, whether by the mobile and engaging cinematography or by Dinçsoy’s fine acting, a role she received the best actress awards at the Istanbul International Film Festival.
She can be seen miserable, while well dressed for a wedding, but in compositions highlighting her sorrow and dark future, while the guests are joyfully dancing. Or we can see her in scenes only light by the TV light, trying to call her missing husband after she put her daughter to sleep.
Sharing half of the film’s well written plot and timid script is Hatun, an organised and disciplined wife, who is also caught under the fire of her apathetic husband, sipping tea and lying on the couch, and her alienated westernized son, whatsapping friends on his mobile all day. Her goal in the film is to buy a house in Moda, a district Nesrin describes as a place where “we only go there to clean houses”
Director and writer Ahu Öztürk didnt fall to push her debut in a shallow oppressor and oppressed narrow plot, but also argued that the very women who are abusing the protagonists, the well dressed “ladies” of posh Turkish neighbourhoods, either by false promises or lack of compassion, are also having their own challenges: cheating husbands, a sick father, a troubled relation with a daughter.
However, Öztürk’s vision of a class conflict, or rather class difference, between the two sides is shown visually and in the dialogue. The film cuts from Nesirn’s small, non light flat, to her employer’s modern salon that can be a catalogue for western future companies.
Öztürk really did a splendid job on offering developed characters, especially when it comes to the female protagonist. More is known about them when to have cigarettes and tea after dinner or when they release flow of words when crying or walking angrily to the bus station. Viewers then are introduced to their fears, dreams, and phobias.
For example, in order to get over her husband, Nesirn bluffs in Kurdish, her first language, “Ah Cefo [her husband]! Did you bring me this hellhole to leave me all alone?” Also, Nesirn, a Muslim, dreaming of a flat, goes to pray at a small Church where she heard “prayers do come true.”
Dust Cloth, a feminist and realist take on the working class women won the Golden Tulip for Best Film of the Istanbul International Film Festival, argues that the dust cloth are the women, who are the first victims of war, displacement, poverty, and patriarchy. Nesiren and Hatun have their own battlefields, not to mention the big city which is trying to swallow its inhabitants.
However, the film doesn’t ban women agency and choice, and some time rebellion.
Dust Cloth will be screened again on Tuesday 8 November at 1pm, at cinema Zawya, Cairo
This review was originally written for the daily news letter published by the Panorama of the European Film during the festival days.
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