// Presented as part of February's Foreign Language Oscar Series //
Kaan Müjdeci / 2014, Venice, Abu Dhabi, Stockholm, Dhaka / 97'
Aslan is a shy young boy living in the Antolian steppes. One day he attends a dogfight with his father where a Kangal sheepdog has been wounded and left for dead. Aslan names the dog Sivas and nurses him back to health; soon after, however, Aslan is coerced into fighting Sivas for money.
Sivas is naturalistic coming-of-age portrait set within the underworld of Turkey's illegal dog-fighting culture— a violent tradition presented, by turns, as simply a way of life; a source of bonding between men in a desolate landscape; and a symptom of their toxic masculinity. Through a determination to depict both the characters and circumstances of his debut feature with truth and ambiguity, filmmaker Kaan Müjdeci registers himself as a bold new voice in Turkish cinema.
Sivas premiered in Competition at Venice, where it won the Special Jury Prize; Abu Dhabi, where it won Best Actor and Best Script; and Dhaka, where it won the FIPRESCI Prize. Sivas was Turkey's official submission for the 2016 Foreign Language Oscar.
Watch two of Kaan Müjdeci's short films, including Fathers & Sons, a short documentary shot in 2012 during research for Sivas, and Jerry, a short film shot in New York in 2011. Presented with the permission of Kaan Müjdeci & Colored Giraffes.
Clip from Sivas: Aslan & Sivas
"Müjdeci has scant interest in making an issue film; instead, Sivas is concerned with the ways in which this violent practice unites and defines the region's menfolk, their duelling dogs serving as surrogate vessels for their own fractious, sometimes abusive masculinity. While not stinting on the horrors of the tradition, the helmer maintains a calm, scrutinous documentarian's eye throughout"
- Guy Lodge, Venice Review, Variety
"For the masterful conveyance of childhood innocence denied by the brutality of a human environment, achieved through the dark imagery of the poignant mise-en-scène"
- FIPRESCI Jury, Prize Statement
"Müjdeci... reveals an impeccable sense of how composition can suggest emotions and make situations dramatically more dynamic. The Berlin-based director, whose 2012 documentary short Fathers & Sons also look at dogfights in Turkey, has a natural flair for disposing the elements to their maximum advantage in his widescreen frames"
- Boyd van Hoeij, Venice Review, The Hollywood Reporter
"Filmed with panning shots on the semi snow-clad landscape and close-ups on the actors' faces that are strictly non-professional, Sivas recounts the relationship between dog and boy as a rite of passage in a male-dominated social structure"
- Camillo de Marco, Venice Review, Cineuropa
"Despite the ferocious violence of the dogfighting and the stark poverty, a surprising humanity underpins Sivas"
- John Bleadsdale, Venice Review, CineVue
"Childhood innocence crashing with a world of great violence is an ongoing motif this season among some of the Oscar Foreign Language Films... Sivas from Turkey follows the unlikely friendship formed between a young boy and a fighting dog"
- Matt Grobar, Film Review, Deadline