SIFF Review: ‘Butterflies’


One of my favorite films of 2015–and not just favorite foreign films– was the Turkish film Mustang.  Many others agreed since it was nominated and came ever so close to winning the Best Foreign Film category at the 2016 Oscars.

Butterflies again shows there are some talented filmmakers in Turkey. It isn’t intended to carry the dramatic impact of Mustang—it is undeniably a lighter film.  Nevertheless, it is a Turkish delight with quirky absurdist humor, interspersed with moments of pathos.  Both Mustang and Butterflies feature stories about siblings.  In Mustang there is a houseful of orphaned sisters whose uncle wants to marry them off as soon as possible, with or without the girls’ blessings; in Butterflies, we have a dysfunctional family of two brothers and a sister who rarely see each other, and have not seen their father in over thirty years.  Their mother abandoned them at an early age by committing suicide (the pathos part).

The premise is that their long-estranged father calls his older son with an urgent message that all three must come to their father’s tiny Turkish village immediately.   The older son Çemal had been raised in Germany and now is an astronaut who has been waiting 8 years for the German government to allot enough money to the space program so that he and other German astronauts could finally be space-bound.  Son #2 is a second-rate actor making his living doing not-too-humorous voiceovers for cats and dogs in people’s home videos.  The sister Suzi is in the midst of seeking a divorce from her totally inattentive, boring, and cheating husband.

The three together make a comedy of errors, and yet something positive begins to develop between them during the course of their road trip to the village and after they arrive.

Butterflies is a really fun movie with scenes that bring out the belly laughs.  Talented performances from Tolga Tekin, Bartu Küçükça?layan, and Tu?çe Altu?, as well as funny supporting performances from the not-so-bright village leader, the doubting imam, and a motley collection of villagers, results in a recipe for a very original film from director Tolga Karaçelik.

This movie was reviewed as part of coverage for the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).

By Karen Samdahl
Related categories: Movie Reviews, SIFF