In the UK, boarding schools are often seen as the preserve of the rich. A place for the wealthy to deposit little Tarquin or Jemima while they enjoy their jet-set lifestyle. To abdicate responsibility for raising them through the power of the chequebook. In cinema, they tend to be unhappy places. Institutions where bullying is rife and youthful angst runs free. This claustrophobic atmosphere was captured brilliantly by Lindsay Anderson in his masterpiece, If…. In Brother’s Keeper, it’s an edifice of crumbling decay.
Yusuf (Samet Yildiz) and his best friend Memo (Nurullah Alaca) live in the same dorm in a boarding school for Kurdish boys in the remote mountains of Eastern Anatolia. It’s a strict and humourless environment, miles from nowhere. Despite the cold, the heating has once again packed up. When Memo falls ill after a cold shower punishment, Yusuf takes the responsibility on himself to make sure he’s ok. Wading through the layers of school bureaucracy and glaring apathy amongst the teachers.
Brother’s Keeper is a beautifully Kafkaesque study of incompetence, responsibility and guilt. The stunning mountain backdrop contrasts starkly with the hardships and banalities of life at the school. Ferit Karahan’s film approaches a serious subject with a glint in his eye. Playing it straight and yet at times suspiciously close to not being able to stifle a smirk. Brother’s Keeper approaches a number of social issues in an offbeat and boldly mysterious way. It’s a joy to watch it play out.
Brother’s Keeper screens at London Film Festival.