Review: ‘Red Moon’

Hot Docs 2019

3 mins read

Red Moon
(Belgium, 95 min.)
Dir. Tülin Özdemir
Programme: Persister (World Premiere)

Beautifully, intimately and with great compassion, director Tülin Özdemir turns her lens towards the women of her family, specifically her aunt Tuncay, and uncovers a story that has veiled her family in secrets. The name Tuncay in Turkish means Red Moon, the film’s title.

At the age of nine, Tuncay was torn from the carelessness of her childhood in Anatolia, Turkey to join her older sister, Ozdemir’s mother, in Belgium. There, she took care of Tulin and her brother for three years before yet another decision was made for her. At the age of thirteen, barely an adolescent, an arranged marriage propelled Tuncay into adult life and all sense of a childhood was lost. At one point in the film, Tuncay tells Ozdemir of the night she found out about the marriage. Once all was arranged and decided upon, without either the bride or groom’s opinion, Tuncay’s mother-in-law took Tuncay, then thirteen, to the corner of the room and told her, “You are ours now.” It was at that moment that Ozdemir’s aunt felt like she had lost everything. “I was standing but I felt the ground slipping away.”

Tuncay is telling her story to her niece, and you can see and feel that. By foregrounding subjectivity, by asserting her own presence in the film, through voice or being in front of the camera, Ozdemir embraces the unavoidable bond and familial ties she has to her subjects. This allows for a more honest, compassionate, and intimate lens on the story. Speaking to four generations of women in her family, gently treated and with great finesse, Ozdemir explores the issues of early marriages, family trauma and the lives of women in general. (Throughout the film, we only speak to and hear from women.) We travel with Ozdemir and her aunt, from the steppes of Anatolia to the northern cliffs, passing through Ghent and Brussels where we meet daughters and granddaughters and revisit sites from Tuncay’s past.

A fantastic account of domestic ethnography, Red Moon tells the story of one woman but reflects stories of all women. That is its magic.

Red Moon screens:
-Mon, Apr. 29 at 12:30 PM Cineplex Scotiabank
-Sun, May 5 at 5:45 PM at TIFF Lightbox

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!

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