Turkey has selected Can Ulkay’s debut feature Ayla: The Daughter of War as its candidate in the race for best foreign-language film in the Oscars.
Set during the Korean war in 1950, the film tells the story of a Turkish soldier, Sgt. Suleyman (Cetin Tekindor) who comes across an abandoned 5-year old girl on a freezing cold night. The terrified, barely alive child melts Suleyman’s heart who risks his own life to smuggle her back to his army base and out of harm’s way.
With no common language, Suleyman names her Ayla, a reference to the moon that lit the ravaged landscape on the night her found her. The two soon become inseparable, bringing joy and laughter into the Turkish military base in the midst of war. When the war comes to an end, the sergeant is forced to give up Ayla to an orphanage, but vows they will be reunited one day.
The film is based on a true story. Actor Cetin Tekindor met with the real Sgt. Suleyman while preparing to play the role during the film.
Produced by Turkey’s Digital Sanatlar Production, the film is due to go on general release in Turkey in October.
Turkey has submitted films for the foreign-language Academy Award regularly since 1989, with Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Three Monkeys making the shortlist of nine in 2008. No Turkish film has yet won an Oscar.