@ the Movies: Waiting for the Clouds

Went to the Los Angeles Film Festival and saw Waiting for the Clouds.

The showing I saw was co-sponsored with Amnesty International. A second showing of the film was co-sponsored with Human Rights Watch.

A representative from Amnesty International spoke briefly before the film sharing that it is often through independent film-making that stories of past injustices can be made known to the world.

I am only vaguely familiar with the more recent conflict over Cyprus between the Turkish and Greeks. The film looks at an event I didn't know and I suspect most people don't: the Turkish expulsion of the Pontian Greeks.

It is often in works of fiction, in an intimate tale of just a few people, that a larger story is told. Saving Private Ryan was a fictional story but the telling of that story highlights the larger true story of World War II and D-Day and the heroism of that great generation.

Waiting for the Clouds is a small story. We are introduced to a mysterious sad older woman who is losing her will to live and a young boy who befriends her. We see them live out their hard scrabble life in rural Turkey. We know she holds a deep secret and the film slowly reveals it.

I hope this fine little film gets more screenings as it is a moving story and it tells us about a past injustice that is little known but not little in the numbers of people killed and affected.

Since the Holocaust, humanity keeps on saying, "Never again." We need to be reminded in many different ways and many times these stories of past slaughters so that we will be vigilient today and in the future. The damning thing for all humankind is that these things still happen today. We know about them and we don't stop it. Exhibit A is what is happening in Darfur, Sudan.

If this film does make it to the local art house theatre near you or gets shown on cable, do try to see it. It will be worth your effort. It is solid film making and it tells about something we should all know about.

I see the occasional foreign film and the first thing I noticed is that compared to American films they tend to unfold slowly. As I was watching Waiting for the Clouds, I noticed there were moments when there was no sound at all: there were people, they were going about their lives but there was no musical soundtrack and no dialog and sometimes not even environmental sounds or only the sounds of daily life faintly heard.

At first, I found this a bit disconcerting being so used to the wiz-bang of American movies. But as I settled into the rhythmn of the lives of the characters on the screen, it began to make sense: the film maker is telling a their story of rural Turkey and life is hard and quiet. And indeed, in the story, as in life, when we know someone is harboring a secret from their past, all is NOT revealed right away. We, like the little boy in the story, are slowly revealed what the real story is behind this older woman's past. We walk the journey with him and her.

Plot spoilers below!

Don't read further if you are going to see the film and don't want to know the story line.

We are first given a clue when she calls him, "Niko." Since that is not his name, he wonders who Niko is or was. The older woman begins occasionally to speak a language foreign to the region and boy wonders what is going on. The boy notices an elderly man visiting the area who speaks the same language. He brings this man to her and they converse and we find out the story: she is the older sister of Niko but they were separated when the Greeks were forced marched away by the Turkish. Their mother died and she was taken in and adopted by a local Turkish family while Niko wound up in an orphanage. She had not seen him since he was very little and wondered if he was even still alive. Between re-visiting the place where this all took place in the mountains and her budding friendship with the little boy, the memories have all flooded back and she is guilt-ridden.

The older man eventually returns to his regular life but has decided to see if he can find Niko and sends the older woman a letter saying he believe he may have found her long last brother and provides the address. The final part of the story is her journey to meet him. At first, he doesn't believe her. But his wife takes pity on her and asks her to stay. Eventually, Niko shows her pictures of his life and tells stories about his life. He asks rhetorically, you aren't in any of these pictures? She reaches for a crumpled old photo of her with him when he was very small to show him and the film ends.

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