Umut is a Turkish film, starring Yilmaz Guney, Tuncel Kurtiz, Osman Alyanak and Enver Donmez; directed by Yilmaz Guney and produced by Guney Film.
Filming of Umut began in April 1970 in Cukurova, Turkey following the director's return from military service. Guney wanted Umut to be a film showing the defects and contradictions of a reality without any actualization of a revolution and the illness of the socio-economic system of its time.
Umut has a reputation for being the archetype of the revolutionist cinema and neo-realismo stream in Turkey. The film has been compared to films of Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica and Cesare Zavattini. A lot of foreign, as well as national, cinema critics wrote about Guneys Umut in comparison to Ladri di Biciclette by De Sica and Zavattini, an Italian production shot in 1948, which captured the Oscar prize in 1950 and is an important example of the Italian neo-realismo stream.
The protagonist of the film is Cabbar (performed by Guney). Cabbar is directed to support his crowded family -5 children, a wife, and a grandmother- with the gainings from an old phaeton with two exhausted, half-dead horses. The family tries to survive in a damp and dingy living quarter -hard to call even a shanty house. Cabbar does not have a good run of business. He is indebted almost to everyone. His single hope is in the lottery tickets, which he continuously buys. He has bound his hope to these pieces of paper.
Life is, on the other hand, getting even harder day by day. A Mercedes hits the horse, while it stands parking alongside sidewalk. In this traffic accident his horse dies. Cabbar is innocent but weak as well. This accident makes him see that the established order is accorded to the poor and strong. Even the police finds him guilty.
Henceforth he sells the few sticks, which he owns only. He scratches together some money to buy a new horse. In the meantime, the creditors sell the phaeton and the remaining horse, and shared the money according to the debts of Cabber between themselves.
Cabbar is plunged into despair. A friend of Cabbar, Hasan, has been inculculating the turning up a buried treasure into Cabbar. In his helplessness, Cabbar lends himself to illusions. After a preachers faith healing sessions they -Cabbar, Hasan, and the preacher- go on treasures way. In the second half of the film, this search for the unfindable treasure is narrated. This search is a natural continuity of the gradually worsening events, which makes Cabbar take refuge on the preacher, in whom he had no belief at all at the beginning.
As can be seen, Guney set down three alternatives for Cabbar: First, he goes after the preacher and searches the treasure; second, he continues to show attitude of expectancy in the lottery tickets; third, he takes part in an organized opposition with other phaeton drivers. However, Cabbar runs away from political and social activities and lastly he becomes a victim of empty promises. He escaped realities and looks for the shelter in fantasies. Guney could make Cabbar politically conscious, even make him the leader of this opposition, and lastly lead him to success or failure, but Guney chose to leave his protagonist blind.
The film finished with an interesting and striking scene. Cabbar, who left his wife, children, and mother desperate in the cause of treasure search, opens his hands to a God, whom he does not know, he begins to turn around in the middle of arid lands. He has gone mad.
Guney asserted before any political action can be organized to change the economic system, the would-be actors must abandon the idea that they possess a self profoundly different from other selves, that they pursue a destiny which is uniquely their own as individuals. The basic aim of Umut is to demonstrate that people who fight alone have no alternative but to place their trust in luck (lottery) and magic (treasure hunting). Briefly, Guney tried to show ideology as ideology to those who would claim that Cabbars situation is a natural state of affairs. As Althusser has stated, consciousness of an ideology as ideology, is the moment in which ideology explodes, revealing the reality it had obscured.
This film, which carries some traces from Guneys own life, manifested itself with its ability to describe the story with an extraordinary reality. Guney thought that we had to look at, to grab to, and reflect the realities of the streets we are wandering and passing rapidly through. The people shown in Umut are mostly real people, not actors or actresses. The environment and the living conditions are real, Guney did not use prepared film sets and lightings for Umut. The scenes showing Cabbar at home with his 5 children, wife, and mother are very good examples of his effort to show life and the environment closest to its reality. With this film, Guney introduces a kind of documentarism into the Turkish cinema.
As the neo-realismo movie makers, Guney created a cinema, where the audience is able to interpret the end of the film in whatever direction he/she wants. For instance, there is no definite ends in neo-realismo, likewise Umuts end is not definite either, the future is uncertain.
Of course, it was not too late that Umut was censored. The prohibition of that film is a very good case to determine the social, economic, and political conditions of Turkey in 1970s. Although prohibited a copy of the film was smuggled abroad and showed in Cannes Film Festival. Afterwards, with the state councils final decision the film was featured in Turkey as well as abroad, and attracted great attention. With this film, Guney captured prizes in Altin Portakal and Adana Film Festivals as best actor.
Best film, 2nd Adana Golden Boll Film Festival, 1970
Best director, 2nd Adana Golden Boll Film Festival, 1970
Best scenario, 2nd Adana Golden Boll Film Festival, 1970
Best actor, 2nd Adana Golden Boll Film Festival, 1970
Best photography (Kaya Ererez), 2nd Adana Golden Boll Film Festival, 1970
Best actor, Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival
Selectors' Commission Special Prize, Grenoble Film Festival