Still-from-Semih-Kaplanog-007

Every culture reserves one of the harshest words in its language to describe a child whose father is missing for whatever reason. But what happens when a child’s missing father also happens to be his best friend? Semih Kaplanoğlu’s Bal (Honey), the final installment of his Yusuf Trilogy and the winner of the Golden Bear at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival, examines that dilemma closely. Yusuf, an earnest but academically challenged boy with a stutter, counts his beekeeper father as his closest confidante. Kaplanoğlu establishes the intimacy of their relationship with sparse but effective dialogue, and Bora Atlas, the prodigious child actor who plays Yusuf, effortlessly shifts from diffidence at school to effusiveness around his father. When the honey dries up in their home area and the father does not return from a trip to collect honey from elsewhere, Yusuf’s stutter turns into aphasia. Some have compared this film and the trilogy to Abbas Kiarostami’s Koker Trilogy. But unlike Kiarostami, Kaplanoğlu eschews any overtly intellectualized, self-reflexive tendencies and instead focuses on the inner workings of a child whose development lies in danger. The resulting effort is quiet, perceptive, and sympathetic, not unlike its child protagonist.