Zenne Dancer (2012)

Director: Caner Alper & Mehmet Binay
Cast: Kerem CanGiovanni Arvaneh, Erkan Avci
Plot: A feature film about an unusual trio: Daniel, a German photo-journalist in Istanbul without much knowledge about Turkish values. Can, a flamboyant, out and proud male belly dancer with lots of love and support from his family, and Ahmet born to an eastern and conservative family whose quest for honesty and liberty results in a tragic end. Zenne Dancer is inspired by true stories. 

Genre: Drama
Runtime: 99min
Rating: R21 for homosexual content.


This film was screened as part of Perspectives Film Festival 2012.

You don't understand. Honesty will kill me.”

As far as contemporary Turkish cinema is concerned, Zenne Dancer is one of the more flamboyant entries to date. It is also a film with a strong message. Directed by Caner Alper and Mehmet Binay, this tragi-drama centers on a trio whose lives intertwine with each other.

Set in conservative Turkey, and based on a startling true story, Zenne Dancer deals with the issue of homosexuality from two vantage points whose realms inevitably merge with each other - the family and the military, or more general, the private and the public.

These two vantage points give us a glimpse of a society at large that has not come to terms with a growing LGBT community. This is not exclusive to Turkey, but is a common trend in many other countries as well, including Singapore.

Perhaps understanding and acceptance can be best cultivated from the intimate circle that is the family, but can honesty help? In Zenne Dancer, honesty kills. And as far as we are willing to empathize with the film's characters, the fate of these characters kill us a little in our hearts as well.

Is homosexuality so immoral as to warrant murder? As far as human morality is concerned, murder is a universal sin, but one's sexuality should not be judged. It is not Zenne Dancer's intention to actively promote LGBT rights; what it does instead is to call to attention the woes of the minority and seek a change in mindsets.

As the directors mentioned in a post-screening Q&A session, this pill is bitter to swallow, but they have sugar-coated it to make it look like candy to entice mainstream moviegoers.

From a filmic standpoint, Zenne Dancer is one of the more accessible films in the subgenre of queer cinema in recent years. Vibrant colours are effectively used in the exotic dance sequences, accompanied by thumping electronic Turkish-flavoured music.

The cinematography is uniformly excellent, despite having to toggle between several modes of visual style from the use of shaky camerawork in several scenes shot in Afghanistan, to a more fluid dramatic style that captures the interactions and 'dances' of the lead characters, and to the occasional dream-like visual effects shots that curiously feel out of place.

Zenne Dancer needs a tighter edit though. The rampant use of fade-outs affects the film's pacing. As a result, it does not engage as well as it should. The overall excellent acting helps to pull the viewer through the film's weaker parts, but that should not dissuade you to catch this quite delightful, and occasionally moving film from a promising Turkish directing duo.

Verdict: This accessible Turkish tragi-drama about homosexuality and honour killings is flamboyant and well-shot, but needs a tighter edit to be more engaging. 


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