Directed by the New York-based Scott Aharoni and Dennis Latos, Leylak takes us through a day in the life of an undertaker in New York, facing some grim news and tasked with the burden of sharing the information with the last person in the world he’d want to hurt.
Aharoni and Latos have a long portfolio of ad campaigns and several award-winning films under their production company DUO Entertainment. Their very own approach to cinematography shines through from the word ‘go’In the opening scene, we see a group of undertakers busy at work, getting on with their day. The camera steadily keeps its focus on one of them, Yusuf Çerik (played by Nadir Saribacak) suggesting he is our protagonist. After some moments Yusuf gets a phone call. He speaks in a foreign language (Turkish), but although we can’t comprehend his words, it is clear by his reaction and expressions that he has received some bad news.
Soon in the film we see that our friend has a teenage daughter called Renk (played by Isabella Haddock), grown and quite astute, continually demanding that her father brings her to visit someone. This will tweak the viewers’ interest greatly because surely this must relate to the prior phone call he had taken whilst on shift?!
Actors Nadir Saribacak and Isabella Haddock give stunning performances as father and daughter.
Through subtle cunning evasive techniques, the father manages to avoid taking his daughter to this final place of tragedy. Hostility grows between father and daughter, with family members getting involved to give advice, with the aim of avoiding a full-on family crisis. How much longer can our man avoid the inevitable?
This short film is very well concentrated, and its dynamic display of grief, emotions, and family politics will grab the attention of the viewers throughout.
After watching Leylak, I was lucky enough to take part in a live Q&A with the film’s writer (Mustafa Kaymak), one of the directors, and some of the cast members. What I found intriguing were certain techniques the director and cast members revealed they had to use in order to piece together the picture. For example, when taking shots on a bus, they shared that they were not granted any permits to shoot, so it was a matter of candid shooting, raw, expressive acting, literally just one chance to get it right.
In present-day Queens, New York, a Turkish undertaker is unable to face a shattering truth, at the risk of losing the dearest connection left in his life.
Also, throughout the film, covid masks are worn by the cast most of the time. The two actors informed us of how much of a challenge this was, and understandably so: with half of your face covered, it is of course far more difficult to convey expressions and emotions, especially in a piece of work filled with so much tragedy and heightened drama. Bravo to the cast.
More information is available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12651386/