ZUHAL / Turkey
NAZLI ELIF DURLU
Born in Ankara, Turkey. Studied Film and TV in the Netherlands and got her master degree from University of Utrecht. After working in the Netherlands and then in Los Angeles as a screenwriter, she returned to Turkey in 2009. She has written and directed three short films [Trust Me (2009), Later (2012), The Horse and the Nightingale (2013)] that were screened international film festivals such as Uppsala, Hamptons and Sao Paolo. In 2010 she worked as one of the screenwriters of the omnibus called Do Not Forget Me Istanbul, in which Hany Abu-Assad shot the story she wrote. Since then she has been working as a screenwriter for TV series and feature films for productions of Turkey and of the Netherlands. Zuhal will be her debut feature.
The pursuit of Zuhal (40) starts with a meow. After a long day of hours in the traffic jam of Istanbul, teaching English in a corporation and an uncomfortable flirting with one of her students, Zuhal arrives home. After spending some time alone, she starts hearing a cat’s meow in her flat. First she pays no attention, but as the meow continues all night she thinks the cat might be stuck nearby. She looks around, but can’t find it. Next day, each time she points the people to the sound, the sound stops. The doorman comforts her, saying it’s forbidden to have pets in the building, her students don’t even hear it, her neighbors follow the doorman’s argument or treat her as a ‘crazy cat-lady’, kids tease her with ‘meows’ from the diaphone. Her reputation is at risk, but worse is that she starts doubting her mental health. Her pursuit ends as the doorman discovers that the sound comes from the wall of the empty flat on the first floor. Locating the cat was hard, convincing the stubborn landowner to break the wall seems impossible. As the conversation turns into a vicious circle, she rushes to a date for the first time in years. But she’s not able to get rid of her thoughts, and when she tells her date about the cat, he proposes to come with Zuhal to her flat. As they arrive home no meow is heard anymore. He is quick to forget about it but for Zuhal this silence is unbearable now. As he falls asleep on the couch, Zuhal tiptoes holding a hammer, and breaks into the neighbouring balcony. Police sirens, ferry signals, birds, radio news. As battering goes on, a cat meows.
Once at a friends’ gathering I met a woman who told me of a constant meowing she kept hearing in her ﬂat. While searching for the cat she discovered that no one else hears it. Moreover, people started doubting her mental health. Later she found a cat stuck in one of the plumbing pipes. I was also intrigued: Would I keep searching or would I just ignore the meow in fear of being labeled as mad?
Mostly people answer Zuhal by saying ‘it’s forbidden having a pet in this building’. This rational reasoning relieves them of the responsibility of further thought. As Zuhal insists, people feel more comfortable with the idea of her mental illness than to do something about the cat; Zuhal’s solitary life gives people an excuse to marginalize her. Zuhal’s pursuit combines moments of urban madness characterized by ruthlessness and indifference of modern life. In our every-day efforts to act coherently, alleged normalcy is often blurred with madness. Is our daily routine in a city under red alert, bombs, extreme trafﬁc jams and unbearable construction works more rational than the search for a cat stuck in a pipe?
Zuhal’s 36-hour pursuit is depicted closely, in a tender and humorous narrative. Talkative moments are as important as silences. Throughout the pursuit she faces various encounters, each a performance. The ﬁlm’s tone is based on the absurdity that comes of such human conversations in modern settings.