AFI Fest 2012
By Don Simpson | November 2, 2012
Director: Umut Dag
Writers: Umut Dag, Petra Ladinigg
Starring: Begüm Akkaya, Nihal G. Koldas, Vedat Erincin, Murathan Muslu, Alev Imak, Aliye Esra Salebci
When a 19-year-old village girl, Ayse (Begüm Akkaya) is recruited to become the second wife — a.k.a. kuma — of Mustafa (Vedat Erincin), we have no idea why she accepts the proposition other than the inherent desire to abide by cultural norms and traditions. Mustafa is a white-haired Turkish gentleman who resides with his Muslim family in Vienna. The presumed purpose of this second marriage is for Ayse to assume the role as the family’s matriarch once Mustafa’s ailing first wife, Fatma (Nihal Koldas), dies. Oddly enough, Fatma supports this situation 100%, going as far as preparing the sofa bed on which her husband will deflower and eventually impregnate Ayse. What confuses matters is that Ayse’s wedding is initially passed off as a marriage to Mustafa’s more age-appropriate son, Hasan (Murathan Muslu). Admittedly, I had to rewind the DVD at least once to figure out that Ayse was not sleeping with her husband’s father within earshot of the entire family; instead, Hasan’s father was the man to whom Ayse was actually married.
Umut Dag’s Kuma dramatically focuses on the physical and mental abuse suffered within the household of a Turkish family in Vienna. Dag’s film is no easier to watch than When We Leave; the main difference with Kuma is that the women are often more brutal than the men. In both cases, societal pressures from their conservative Muslim worlds prohibit the female protagonists from experiencing true love or freedom. One might suspect that a Muslim household located in Austria or Germany would be more liberal and open-minded than those portrayed in Kuma or When We Leave, but both films suggest quite the opposite. In both instances, Muslim beliefs and customs seem even more stringent when moved to a predominantly non-Muslim country. It is all about keeping up appearances.