The North American premiere of Murat Saracoglu’s 2009 film is his third feature. Piano Girl (Deli Deli Olma) is a gentle film that tells the story of Mishka, a Russian Molokan, who is forced into exile by Czarist Russia after a war with the Ottoman Empire. He lives in a small Turkish village amongst Turkish muslims. In Russia, Mishka was a heretic. In his Turkish village he is an infidel. Still, the village seems to love the man – a gentle, and giving soul. All except the elderly Papuc, who has a seemingly inexplicable hatred for Mishka. The reason for this is revealed in time, but you probably would have guessed it by then.
Mishka, once the prosperous mill owner, is now down on his luck, as the mills have modernized. His skills have been passed by. He buys some flour on credit from Papuc’s son Şemistan, who runs the general store. When Papuc hears this, she goes ballistic, and demands immediate payment. The only thing that Mishka owns of any value (and it’s mostly sentimental) is an old piano left him by his father. He’s taken a liking to Semistan’s young daughter Alma, who has shown an interest in music, so he makes payment with his piano. The piano becomes a sort of barter currency in the village, traded from family to family as payment for debts.
It’s Alma (the piano girl) who ultimately brings the village together and who is instrumental even in bridging the gap between the harsh Papuc, and the gentle giant Mishka.
Serif Sezer is expressive and explosive as the angry Papuc. She chews the scenery and spits it out. At the opposite end of the spectrum is her granddaughter Alma. Alma is wise beyond her years and goes behind her grandmothers back when necessary to do the right thing. Piano Girl is a sentimental film to be sure – but not overly so. It’s a warm breeze on the cold steppes of Eastern Anatolia. It includes some Turkish music that lends great local color to the film.
Directed by Murat Saracoglu
Written by Sevim Hazel Unsal
Mishka – Tarik Akan
Papuic – Serif Sezer
Şemistan – Levent Tulek
Figan (Semistan’s wife) – Zuhal Topal,
Alma – Cemile Nihan Turhan