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TIFF 2021 Review: Anatolian Leopard – “A melancholy study of a man”

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When an Anatolian leopard dies, an unexpected opportunity arises to save the oldest zoo in Turkey from being turned into an amusement park by Arab investors.

Holding up the sale of a Turkish zoo to Arab investors is the presence of an endangered Anatolian leopard which is protected by law.  The director of the public institution discovers that the prized possession has died and goes about disposing of the corpse.  Word spreads that the indigenous animal has escaped leading to a countrywide manhunt.

Check out all of our TIFF coverage
Though described as a dark comedy, filmmaker Emre Kayiş in actuality has crafted a melancholy study of a man who believes that he has wasted his life.  The pace is deliberately slow.  Despite the presence of shouting and declarations about the need to finalize the business deal, there is no sense of urgency.  It is as if the main character Fikret (Uğur Polat) is trying to wake from a deep slumber and upon opening his eyes he sees the possibility of finding love with a co-conspirator and colleague but also painfully aware that life has slipped away from him.

Darkness is everywhere and the colour palette is desaturated which heightens the somber tone and feeling of loneliness.  Long takes allow for the viewer to get to know the characters as well as the environments in which they inhabit.  The naturalistic approach is assisted by the decision not to have a musical score.  A really effective shot occurs in a cafeteria near the end which is thematically, narratively and visually compelling.  Unfortunately, there are not enough of these moments as the story plods to its conclusion.

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18, 2021, and for more information visit tiff.net.    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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