Pandora's Box

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San Sebastian Film Festival, In Competition

Attesting to the fact that Alzheimer's disease is a universal family drama, "Pandora's Box" puts an aging grandmother's illness into the context of modern Turkey. Director Yesim Ustaoglu, known for her courageous films with political undertones ("Journey to the Sun", "Waiting for the Clouds") shows great sensitivity and an ability to touch the heartstrings in this less controversial subject. Good sales potential is hampered mainly by a slow pace.

Opening scenes weave together different characters who turn out to be members of the same family. An elderly woman (Tsilla Chelton) living in the mountains suddenly disappears. A teenage boy, Murat (Onur Unsal) sleeps on the docks of Istanbul, while his mother Nesrin (Derya Alabora) worries. Her unmarried sister Guzin (Ovul Avkiran) is involved in an unhappy love affair while Mehmet (Osman Sonant), their ne'er-do-well brother, lounges in his apartment smoking joints.

News that their mother is missing launches the three siblings on a quarrelsome road trip to western Turkey. They manage to find mom, who is diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer's. When they bring her back to Istanbul to live, she proves a catalyst for all their latent problems to come flying out of the box.

Script is well-written but too drawn-out and a tad on the obvious side. It isn't hard to foresee the difficulties that will arise when grandma innocently wanders off through the unfamiliar streets of Istanbul. French theater actress Tsilla Chelton, famed for her roles in Eugene Ionescu plays, holds the tenuous story together with a gentle sense of humor and bright eyes, streaked with the fear of losing her memory and a longing to return to the mountains where she grew up.

Tech work is professionally handled by an international crew reflecting the film's broad spectrum of European coproducers in Turkey, France, Belgium and Germany.

Production company: Ustaoglu FilmYapim, Silkroad Production, Les Petites Lumieres, Stromboli Pictures, The Match Factory.
Cast: Tsilla Chelton, Derya Alabora, Ovul Avkiran, Onur Unsal, Osman Sonant, Tayfun Bademsoy.
Director: Yesim Ustaoglu.
Screenwriters: Yesim Ustaoglu, Sema Kaygusuz.
Producers: Yesim Ustaoglu, Muhammet Cakiral, Serkan Cakarer, Behrooz Heshemian, Setareh Farsi, Natacha Devillers, Catherine Burniaux, Michael Weber, Tobias Pausinger.
Director of photography: Jacques Besse.
Production designers: H.F. Farsi, Elif Tascioglu, Serdar Yilmaz.
Music: Jean-Pierre Mas.
Editor: Franck Nakache.
Sales Agent: The Match Factory, Cologne.
115 minutes.

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