There’s a worrying modern phenomenon which is sweeping through cities around the world. In generations past, the rich had moved to the suburbs leaving the poor to live in fairly desolate urban areas. Now that trend is reversing with vast swathes of inner-cities being gentrified and turned into building sites. The poor are once again being evicted to make way for the rich. Since 2012, over 10,000 people have been forced out of Fikirtepe, Istanbul. Their houses replaced by high-rise developments and construction sites. Saf tells their story.
Urban transformation has swept through Kamil (Erol Afsin) and Remziye’s (Saadet Aksoy) poor community which has become a waste ground. Deserted buildings are often occupied by Syrian refugees and construction is constant. They face severe pressure to sell up to developers but are determined to stay put. Whilst his wife works part-time for a rich lady, Kamil has to work secretly on a construction site. In order to take the job he must accept the lower wages paid to Syrians; working for the man who has decimated his neighbourhood. He’s known as a generous, kind and honest man but fear of discovery, ostracization and poverty change him.
Ali Vatansever’s film is the tale of a man whose good nature and naivety is derided, exploited and finally eroded. Kamil and Remziye refuse to take a side. Trusting that their friends will respect them for simply trying to earn a living and save up to have a child. The community has other ideas and anyone not with them is branded as a traitor. Saf is a powerful and fairly desolate film about the harsh realities of life for many families in Turkey’s largest city. One which has two distinct part and comes into its own in the second half.
Saf screens at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival on 20 & 21 March.