The father-son bond is often tricky. It's one of those relationships that is defined by distance and silence. Most fathers dedicate so much of their time to their professional lives that they find little time for their personal ones. This leads to a gap between the patriarch and his child. They grow estranged and find nothing to communicate with each other. Or perhaps, you resent your father for a completely different reason (he must have been strict or something).
In Özcan Alper's The Festival of Troubadours, Yusuf (Kivanç Tatlitug) hates his father, Heves Ali (Settar Tanriögen), because he left him and his mother. Ali never visited Yusuf at his boarding school and didn't try contacting him for 25 years. But one day, Ali knocks on Yusuf's door and spends the night at his house. He decided to catch up with his son because he was in town. Ali has a plan: He would first like to visit Arkanya and then go to Kars for the festival mentioned in the film's title. The following morning, Ali packs his bags and leaves without saying a single word. Of course, Yusuf cannot just let his father go away like that. He follows the bus he took and decides to take him to Arkanya in his car.
The soundscape alternates between gentle, forlorn tunes and silences. Both Yusuf and Ali are framed in such a way that our attention goes toward the empty spaces around them. Even when they share the same frame, like on the sofa in Yusuf's house or during the scene where the car breaks down, they look separated from one another due to a lot of negative space. The alienation is further accentuated through economical dialogues between them. They barely speak, and no answers are given when Yusuf demands to know why he was abandoned. Instead, Ali quietly signals him to calm down. Perhaps, he thinks an explanation won't fix the damage. And given Ali's condition (he is suffering from serious disease), the man simply wants to meet all who are close to him before taking a leave of presence.
That makes The Festival of Troubadours a road trip movie. There are different kinds of journeys undertaken in the film. The first is the literal one, where Yusuf and Ali drive the car. The second is the internal one, where Yusuf's resentment for his father turns into reconciliation. The third one is spiritual, where Ali moves from one world to another.
If you carefully observe Yusuf, you will find feelings of love and hate simultaneously on his face. He is clearly angry with his father, but he also cannot leave him on his own. In one scene, he tries to do so, but, unsurprisingly, he stops nearby and quickly takes a U-turn. Nevertheless, rage simmers with such intensity within Yusuf that he dreams of strangling Ali. There is thunder and downpour during that scene, hinting at the storm brewing within the lad vehemently.
Where the movie falters, though, is in its treatment. I don't think the low-key approach does justice to a material that wants to squeeze our tear ducts dry. By abstaining from drama, Alper neuters the emotional feelings. Everything is so composed and neat. Where is the messiness of a broken heart when Ali dies? The shots are quite steady, diverting our attention towards the composition and away from poignancy. The film tries to be subtle and has a restrained tone, making us feel like we are pulling around a dead body. A movie like this should sting, but it barely bites.
The Festival of Troubadours, however, leaves you with a rueful reflection. People might die, but their work continues to keep them alive. Ali passes away physically, but his music will prevent him from fading into oblivion. And click many selfies with your loved ones, and don't forget to smile. Because years down the line, when you would look at those images, you probably won't remember what state you were in before or after clicking a particular picture. But you would definitely see how you and the person beside you happily smiled at that moment.
Final Score – [5.5/10]
Reviewed by - Vikas Yadav
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