The Edge of Heaven - Directed by Fatih Akin.
In German and Turkish with subtitles. After Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz) accidentally kills a prostitute, Yeter (Nursel Kose), and gets thrown into jail, his son, Nejat (Baki Davrak) moves to Istanbul to find Yeter’s 27-year-old daughter, Ayten (Nurgul Yesilcay), a political activist, to pay for her education. Meanwhile, Ayten hides out in Germany to escape the Turkish police. She befriends and falls in love with Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska), who desperately tries to rescue her when she gets deported back to Turkey. Lotte’s mother eventually tries to help as well. Although the plot seems convoluted in hindsight, writer/director Fatih Akin does a superb job of building up suspense by the way he connects the characters and subplots unpredictably and with surprisingly tender moments. The shifts in point-of-view tend to be initially jolting because there’s no single protagonist to root for, but that’s what makes the story much more intriguing and refreshing to watch. If it were all told in a linear fashion with only one protagonist, it would’ve been dull and tedious. Terrific performances, especially by Nurgul Yesilcay and Patrycia Ziolkowska, along with strong dramatic tension help to keep you thoroughly engaged. The Edge of Heaven doesn’t overstay its welcome at a running time of 122 minutes and ultimately manages to be powerful, riveting and absorbing like after reading an intricately layered, sweeping novel. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Released by Strand Releasing. Opens at the Film Forum.
A Jihad for Love - Directed by Parvez Sharma.
In English, Arabic, Hindi, Persian, Urdu and French with subtitles. This mildly fascinating yet provocative documentary explores the connection between gay, lesbian and transgender Muslims living in India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa and France. Each of the subjects interviewed has been going through a “jihad”, a.k.a. and innate struggle, in their quest to find love when homosexual activity is forbidden according to their religion. Director Parvez Sharms follows these individuals, such as a gay imam, as they deal with hateful words from intolerant people. Their life surely isn’t easy and, moreover, it takes them courage to speak the truth about how they feel. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough intimate interviews that dig deep enough into what’s going on inside their heads. More profound questions would have yielded more intrigue and insight, especially given how articulate the subjects appear to be. Even the conclusions, although somewhat hopeful, seem rather simplistic and rushed without further analysis. Ultimately, A Jihad for Love lacks the emotional power and insight of Trembling Before G_d. Number of times I checked my watch: 5. Released by First Run Features. Opens at the IFC Center.