TIFF Review: 'Saf' Offers a Brave, Universal Look at Gentrification Directed by Ali Vatansever
Starring Erol Afsin, Saadet Aksoy, Onur Buldu
Published Sep 10, 2018Saf takes one couple's story and uses it to explore the dynamics of modern-day Turkey, where gentrification is changing the urban landscape, and an influx of Syrian immigrants poses questions to native Turkish citizens.
Kamil (Erol Afsin) is a jobless young Turkish man living with his wife Remziye (Saadet Isil Aksay) in a neighbourhood rapidly being turned into towering development for the higher classes. The couple has to navigate how they'll deal with the companies and rich folk who might employ Kamil and Remziye and keep them afloat while also working towards changing their way of life. At the same time, how should they interact with the Syrian immigrants who are a rung lower socially than even them?
Director Ali Vatansever and the crew of Saf have an eye for point of view, keeping the characters as the lens for this world with well-staged handheld cinematography. They also have the benefit of portraying a time they're living in; when we're shown old homes ranging from modest to dilapidated or we see massive construction projects buzzing with activity, it isn't hard to imagine the filmmakers are on location with people struggling with the same issues Saf dramatizes.
The situation here might not allow for too much subtlety. It might not call for it. This film sits in the middle of its moment, unafraid to take it on.