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Nov 06 2017

Kaplanoğlu’s film "Grain" imagines not-too-distant dystopian future

In the tradition of imagining a future dystopian society to examine present-day anxiety over the future, Semih Kaplanoğlu’s futuristic dystopian film "Grain" envisions a world where devastating climate change threatens to destroy life on Earth. 

The winner of the grand prize at the Tokyo Film Festival, "Grain" does not take place in the not too distant future, nor does it tell the story of desperation or destruction. Inspired by Islamic philosophy, the movie sets out to find an answer to the problems we are facing today. The sombre tone of the film stems not from the storyline, but rather from the striking use of black-and-white, the extended scenes and the terrifying landscapes of an ecologically destroyed planet.

The Turkish director often contemplates Islamic philosophies in his films, but in "Grain" he adds a melancholic style as a reminder to the audience of the 'urgency' of the situation.

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The Tokyo International Film festival president Tommy Lee Jones, according to the Hollywood Reporter, said the judges were impressed by the movie's presentation of myth and reality. U.S. actor Jones, Iranian director Reza Mirkarimi, French director Martin Provost, Chinese actress Zhao Wei and Japanese actor Masatoshi Nagase presented the award at the festival.

The film will be screened this week in Thessaloniki, Greece, and next week in Malatya, Turkey.

Inspired by passages in the Koran, "Grain" also contains references to Tarkovsky's "Stalker," and criticises today's world. Kaplanoğlu muses over the Al-Kahf verse of the Koran: "And indeed, We will make that which is upon it (into) a barren ground." The movie takes place in a future where climate change has already happened, led to ecological catastrophe and has started endangering life on Earth. Those with the technology have settled into living spaces behind magnetic walls. When a disease hits the sheltered plantations, genetic engineer Erol Erin decides to find his colleague Cemil Akman, who has authored a book on this subject but has since disappeared, replicating what happens in the Koran verse between the prophet Moses and Al-Khidhr, a religious servant of God.

A scene from movie Grain where two men watch the valley over the hills in black and white.

Unable to find a solution to the devastation around him, Erol travels to the Dead Land to change his own fate and possibly that of mankind. What follows is a mystical meeting, an interpretation of existence as a religious experience, and a rediscovery of the Sufi belief that everything is one. It is a challenging movie that proposes that, in the face of a totalitarian power that abuses science and technology to establish genetic superiority, true salvation can only come from the Creator. "Grain" addresses the idea that climate change has already become a reality, that world leaders are wilfully ignoring the destruction and people all around the world are embracing religion as an answer to their woes.