QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM TALLINN
Fehmi (Oktay Çubuk) is an enthusiastic 19-year-old rapper living with his father and brother in a rough district of Istanbul, which he describes as his “hood”. He’s in a promising music partnership with his best friend, and in a relationship with the beautiful Devin (Hayal Köseoglu). His girlfriend comes from a very different economic background: she lives in an upper class district of the same city, in a house overlooking the Bosphorus. She’s also a musician, providing the electronic background to Fehmi’s passionate lyrics.
But not everything is perfect. Fehmi is grappling with a very cheap and potent synthetic drug called bonzai. He attempts to conceal his addition from his girlfriend, but it isn’t long before he’s caught red-handed. The highs are very intense and the comedowns very destructive. The risk of sudden overdose is constant. Everyone around Femi is impacted. He loses his job, leaving his brother to grapple with his debts. His father is concerned that he will tarnish his family’s reputation. His music partner has to perform without their biggest star, who is too intoxicated to go on stage. And his girlfriend has to cope with his dysfunctional behaviour when he goes cold turkey.
Our protagonist writes and sings highly personal songs about his very own struggle with drugs, love and fitting in. Turkey is a conservative society, and Fehmi too has many of these values deeply imbued into his demeanour. He does not want his girlfriend to engage with males, even if they happen to be childhood friends. He stops midway through sex upon hearing the morning prayers. His brother seems to be gay, but this is taboo subject neither Fehmi nor his father are able to confront. While homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, there are very few film that openly portray LGBT characters.
Fehmi’s girlfriend is the most reasonable and sensible character in this female-directed movie. She remains calm at the face of adversity, and is able to make the right decision at the most difficult times. She is very supportive of Fehmi as he attempts to overcome his addiction. But how many relapses can she handle before her boyfriend’s problems begin to affect her life? While kind and caring, she is not the bake-cookies-Tammy-Wynette type of woman.
Overall, this is neither an extraordinary nor an unfamiliar story. Drug addiction and lost youth are an issue in every corner of the planet, with no shortage of good movies dealing with the subject. Instead, this is an ordinary story told with confidence, and with its heart at the right place. It is supported by vibrant photography, strong performances, rapturous tunes, punchy lyrics and even a little bit of sombre and raw animation.
When I’m Done Dying has just premiered at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. It’s part of the Official Competition. DMovies is following the event in loco.