Updated: Feb 8
Directed by: #BarişSarhan
Written by: #BarişSarhan
Not since The King of Comedy (1982) has there been an anti-hero whose haplessness is part of his charm, and part of his lunacy. Bariş Sarhan’s debut feature, The Cemil Show is a blazing, 60s-smeared trip into Turkish B-movies. Cemil (Ozan Çelik) is a mall-cop with a dream to become an actor, a dream that nobody can deter him from. But when he selects 60s film villain Turgay Göral to be his role-model and acting guru, things take a turn for the worst; insanely funny, and totally unexpected, Sarhan’s film is one of the best features currently screening in the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Ozan Çelik is remarkably suited for the role of the deluded, dream-chasing Cemil; he brings to the character a hyperactive insanity and lost-puppy woebegone face. Cemil is clearly cracking under the pressure of a job that bores him, with co-workers who misunderstand him (one of whom mistakes ambiance and ambulance). When alone in the surveillance room, rather than monitoring crime around the mall, Cemil is rewatching his favourite movies, transfixed by the smiling malevolent face of Turgay. But life and film soon begin to lose their distinction, their contours overlapping. After coming across Turgay’s real-life daughter (Nesrin Cavadzade), Cemil's life and the life of Turgay Göral become increasingly interchangeable. Cemil imitates everything from these 60s exploitation sleeze-fests. How to hold a gun, how to smoke a cigarette - even how to live his life.
There’s a stunning sequence in which Cemil, waking up after a concussion, makes his way to a film audition; he seems blissfully unaware that his appearance may be off-putting: drenched in blood, decked out in a tomato-red suit like his favourite actor, carrying a framed portrait of a young Turgay Göral along a cliffside; absurdity and melodrama come together in a way that’s captivating and truly interesting.
For a debut feature, Bariş Sarhan seems incredibly confident behind the camera; there’s a maturity and energy to the storytelling that distinguishes The Cemil Show from other narrative films in the IFFR. And technicalities aside, the script is insidiously clever; though Nesrin Cavadzade’s character is never really the love interest of the egomaniacal Cemil, he occasionally treats her as such while imitating his favourite movies. The film plays with genre and expectation, creating the illusion of a love interest who really isn’t there, who isn’t really loved.
Behind the energy, humour and style, The Cemil Show is strikingly poignant. Its central character is helplessly dependent on becoming another character. To rob him of his delusion would be to rob him of himself. Sarhan’s film is essentially unnerving, highlighting a universal dilemma at the core of human identity.