The Festival of Troubadours is a Turkish movie revolving around the strained relationship between a father and his son. Directed by Özcan Alper, this is a film that focuses on these two characters and asks difficult questions about parenthood, forgiveness, and commitment. A film that is limited in its characters (mainly two main characters fill the frame) relies heavily on the performances. The Festival of Troubadours also presents itself as a philosophical journey, where the two characters take a trip to Arkanya and then Kars, and confront differing opinions and expectations for themselves. It is laced with wide shots of the beautiful Turkish landscape and long unwinding roads that give ample time for the characters to come to terms with their fears and doubts slowly. Such a subject is not new.
The Festival of Troubadours often feels like a lovechild of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and Shoojit Sircar’s Piku. It sounds surprising, but like these two films, The Festival of Troubadours contains similar thematic and narrative elements that make it an effective drama about questions on existence and acceptance. Here is a detailed analysis of the film that I would request you to read only after watching it.
The Festival of Troubadours Plot Summary and Movie Analysis :
The Festival of Troubadours introduces us to Yusef (Kivanç Tatlitug). He works as a single lawyer in his late thirties and lives mostly alone. Yusef is soft-spoken and timid and has an air of distance that keeps him away from people. He does his work and returns to his flat. The sudden arrival breaks the serenity of his aging father, Whimsy Ali (played by Settar Tanriogen), a troubadour who only wants to stay for the night. Yusef notices he is bleeding but shrugs it off, saying it’s nothing. He will take the bus the next day to visit Kars, so he simply needs a night at his place. Yusef takes his medical details while he is asleep and gets to know his situation is awful. He goes out of his way to stop him from the bus and decides to take him to the Kars himself, fully aware of his situation.
During the journey, Yusef confronts his father about his decision to leave him completely alone and live his own life. He didn’t care to ask how he was, living in the boarding school for years. He only cared for himself, his interests, and his desires all his life. As the journey proceeds, Yusef learns the truth about his father and how he loved this village woman but married someone else. His actions were never forgiven, even as he often returned to the village. There, his father’s condition worsens. He has only one wish- to visit the Festival of Troubadours and meet his lifelong friends. Yusef takes him to the festival, where he is given a musical tribute as one of the masters. Ali succumbs to his condition on the way. Yusef breaks down. The Festival of Troubadours ends with a note of acceptance.
The Festival of Troubadours review
Directed by Özcan Alper, The Festival of Troubadours is a contained and intimate journey that plays out like a novella. So much of the movie mostly works because it understands the characters so well. The narrative provides characters their space and time to talk and express themselves. Long silences speak louder than words, and that is where The Festival of Troubadours thrills.
A large part of it depends on the performances. Tatlitug is incredible as Yusef, guiding us through and through with his condensed anger that bursts out in a manner that he cannot anticipate.
Yusef is someone who is hiding, who is so fundamentally shaped by the loss that he does not know what to do when his situations change. Tatlitug inhabits that fragility with care as we slowly see an individual unravel himself through time. As Yusef’s father, Tanriogen is excellent. His weathered, watchful face hides a lifetime of guilt and a fractured stubbornness that permeates his silence. The Festival of Troubadours tends to overdo a couple of scenes in the second half, especially in the village they visit. Even as the end arrives with a predictable climax, director Alper keeps it moderate and quietly affecting. Ultimately, we still care for these characters and feel part of their journey.
The Festival of Troubadours Ending Explained
Does Ali visit The Festival of Troubadours?
The Festival of Troubadours reaches its final destination of the journey when Yusef takes his father to the titular festival. Yusef knows that little time is left with him and wants to respect his father’s wishes. So he arranges for a private ambulance and takes his father on a stretcher. With his condition worsening by the second, Ali gets a grand and fitting tribute from his lifelong friends of troubadours with a stunning performance. While returning, Ali’s condition worsens, and he passes away. Yusef is heartbroken and leaves the ambulance to walk across the road. He sits by and cries.
All his life, he had wanted to be cared for and loved, and now that his father is gone forever, he has no one to direct his rage or anger towards. It’s the release of years of anger, now gone. He pauses to reflect on how his father would never be there with him as a whole. He knows his passion now, his reasons for leaving him away, and he cannot alter it and let it eat him day by day.
What does Yusef’s vision mean?
Through a distance, Yusef sees a father and his small son in the mountain, which reminds him of his past. The father resembles his own, a troubadour. He reflects how only one photograph, taken when Yusef was small- where his father’s left palm is on his shoulder, is his only memory of them. Then there is the selfie he took during the journey with him that flashes by. It encompasses their journey together- as people who could never fit the frame yet had to survive.