Les Enfants Terribles
Growing Up • 1h 32m
Directed by Ahmet Necdet Çupur • Documentary • 2021 • 93 minutes
Twenty years ago, Ahmet Necdet Çupur left his village in south-eastern Turkey, against his parents wishes. Now, he is back. But this time as a filmmaker documenting his siblings’ struggles against the same oppressive family culture that drove him away.
Zeynep is a teenager who dreams of a better life. She’s taken a job as a seamstress at a local factory and signed up to finish high school through distance learning. Her ultimate goal is to become independent, move to a nearby city, and attend university. Her older brother, Mahmut, faces a struggle of a different kind. At 26, he wants a divorce from Nezahat, the 17-year-old wife he married at 14, at his parents’ behest. He thinks it’s wrong to force her to stay married to a man who doesn’t love her and who spends much of his time working out of the country. But a divorce would mean she’d be left destitute or married off to a much older man.
To the parents, these aspirations are at best baffling, and at worse a threat to their way of life. Nezahat sits in her in-laws’ living room, listening as they discuss her fate. “I wish she’d die,” says her mother-in-law. “It’d be easier for us.” Later, Mahmut and Zeynep’s father says the family’s problems could be solved with a bullet.
In LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES, Çupur brilliantly captures these tensions over several years, witnessing emotional conversations, troubling threats, and his siblings’ moments of intense soul-searching as they struggle to fulfill their desires while maintaining their family ties. The film tells the story of a troubled family, but also of generational clash in the midst of cultural change.
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