“Kuş” (Birdie) is a 20-minutes short film that marks Çağatay Ulusoy’s debut as a screenwriter, producer, and director. It also offers an unprecedented peek into this famous (and famously private) Turkish actor’s soul.
“Kuş” narrates the story of an old and ailing fisherman, who survives on an income that is just enough to cover his basic needs. He seems, however, very much at peace with himself and in balance with nature. He takes from the environment only what he requires, barters his catch for other food items at a local store, and lives by himself in a decrepit hut close to the water.
Unfortunately, the fisherman has a serious medical condition that will lead to the amputation of his leg and, in turn, to his ruin. An operation to save his leg is available, but he cannot afford it. One day, he rescues an injured goldfinch from a raptor just outside his hut. This fortuitous meeting changes his life in unexpected ways…
“Kuş” was filmed in the Çatalca peninsula between December 2019 and January 2020. It was only in early 2021, however, when fans discovered that Çağatay had completed his very own first movie and that the latter had been selected to participate in several prestigious international short film festivals. We saw “Kuş” on 1 April 2021, when it was made available to the general public in the United States at the Oxford Film Festival.
To those familiar with Çağatay Ulusoy and his work, the thematic choice of his very own first film comes as no surprise. “Kuş” appears indeed as a natural extension of a personal philosophy, which he has often articulated over the years.
Like the members of many indigenous cultures, the fisherman is aware that ‘life is viable only when humans view the environment as “kin.” […In turn,] this “kin” includes all the natural elements of an ecosystem.’ Consequently, the fisherman is very mindful of how he affects — and is in turn affected by — all life that surrounds him. In this perspective, “Kuş” is an ode to nature, and to the safe and healing space that nature provides to anyone approaching it with respect.
The short film’s circular yet progressive structure beautifully illustrates how, in nature’s perfect balance, the different elements may come in contact with each other, while still maintaining an overall harmony. Indeed, harmony is the term that best describes the essence of Çağatay Ulusoy’s film. Like the melodious notes of both the goldfinch’s chirping and “Kuş’s” mesmerizing soundtrack, the movie’s narrative flows in smooth, rhythmic waves thanks to a meticulously written screenplay and a careful direction.
The “Lion and the Mouse” and “King Solomon and the Bee” fables might have provided additional sources of inspiration for Çağatay’s script. Both, in fact, contain messages that are similar to those of “Kuş.” First, every creature in nature has something to contribute. Second, size and status are not as important as one’s courage and sense of honor. Third, no living being should be underestimated because we can never know who or what might affect our lives when we least expect it. Fourth kindness is never wasted. Fifth, true friendship can happen between all living things. And finally, never lose hope because life has unpredictable ways to restore balance.
Keen observers will notice that the fisherman’s hut in “Kuş” is the same one featured in the “Menajerimi Ara” episode starring Çağatay Ulusoy, which aired in the Fall of 2020. This is no coincidence. Above and beyond the amazing feat of promoting two films — i.e. “Birdie” and “Paper Lives” — in a 7+ minutes TV guest appearance, Çağatay’s monologue in “Menajerimi Ara” contains echos of the fisherman’s wisdom:
“Kuş” features as main protagonists two of Çağatay’s fellow actors from “Paper Lives” — Turgay Tanülkü as the aging fisherman, and Ersin Arıcı in the shepherd’s role. Turgay delivers an outstanding performance, which is even more impressive in light of the fact that, during most of the film, the fisherman engages in soliloquy or dialogues exclusively with a goldfinch. And yet, even without saying much, the veteran actor manages to communicate to viewers the nuances of each emotion, which his character experiences — kindness, generosity, hope, respect, loyalty, gratitude, and friendship; but also misanthropy, diffidence, loneliness, and desperation. Just like he did in “Paper Lives,” Ersin Arıcı manages to bring a smile to our faces even in the midst of drama. In the role of the shepherd, he offers a welcome balance to the fisherman’s crankiness through his uniquely warm and extrovert acting style.
In conclusion, “Kuş” offers a deeply layered viewing experience. As the screenwriter, Çağatay Ulusoy manages to convey a meaningful, clear, concise, and sometimes poetic narrative. As the producer, he creates a movie that not only features great actors but is also curated in the smallest of details. As the film’s director, he leads the amazing Turgay Tanülkü in a challenging, refined, and moving interpretation against an aesthetically distinctive and cinematically impressive backdrop.
Clearly, Çağatay learned a great deal in the course of his decade-old experience in the Turkish film and TV industry and is now fully ready to put his knowledge at the service of his original creations. Marking his directorial debut, “Kuş” feels like an irregular rock that has been lovingly polished into a smooth stone with a beautiful message carved on it. If this is his first film, we simply cannot wait until Çağatay Ulusoy delivers his next one.
“Birdie/Kuş” is available for online viewing in the United States. To purchase tickets click here.
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