The plot of Tufan Taştan You me Lenin had its world premiere at the 43rd Moscow International Film Festival in 2021 and made its Turkish debut at the 40th Istanbul Film Festival this year. The film, which began streaming on Netflix in May, picked up numerous awards, including Best Screenplay at the 22nd Frankfurt Turkish International Film Festival.
You me Lenin is Tufan Taştan’s first feature film. Taştan co-wrote the screenplay with author and screenwriter Barış Bıçakçı (Bizim Büyük Çaresizliğimiz, Aramızdaki En Kısa Mesafe, Doğum Lekesi Gibi Bir Gülümseme).
Lead actors Barış Falay and Saygın Soysal are joined by Melis Birkan, Serdar Orçin, Nur Sürer, Salih Kalyon, Hasibe Eren, Binnur Kaya and Serkan Keskin, who are well known to theater and film audiences in Turkey and have won numerous price.
The film is a fictional account of a real event. A statue of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin was thrown into the sea after the dissolution of the Soviet Union by the Stalinist bureaucracy in 1991. Two years later it washed up in Akçakoca, a town in Düzce province, in western Black Sea, Turkey.
In 2009, Akçakoca officials considered erecting Lenin’s statue in the town square or displaying it in a museum to boost tourism, but the proposal was never followed through. Instead, the wooden statue was left to rot in a municipal warehouse.
The story of Lenin’s statue in Akçakoca has already been the subject of a short documentary, Welcome Lenin, directed by Ahmet Murat Öğüt, Aylin Kuryel, Begüm Özden Fırat and Emre Yeksan. With the support of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, this short documentary humorously deals with the journey of the statue.
The creators of the documentary, winner of the 2016 Johan van der Keuken Special Jury Prize at the Documentarist/Istanbul Documentary Days, stressed that the work was the product of a collective effort. The short film was also screened at ARTİST 2017/27th Istanbul Art Fair with the theme “100th Anniversary of October Revolution”, which was held simultaneously with the 36th Istanbul International Book Fair.
As indicated, You me Lenin tells the story of a statue of Lenin washed up on the shore of a Black Sea town and stolen just before an opening ceremony, with the participation of the Turkish and Russian prime ministers. Two police officers dispatched from Ankara search for the missing statue in the city.
In an interview with the film journal Bağımsız Sinemadirector Taştan describes the genesis of the film thus: “One day I called Barış [Bıçakçı] and asked him, “What would have happened if the statue of Lenin that reached Akçakoca in the 2000s had actually been erected in a conservative town in the Black Sea region? Barış replied, “It would have been a movie.”
The film has been in development since November 2016. One of the main reasons for the delayed release of the film was the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, Taştan explained in an interview that after their request for support from the Ministry of Culture was rejected, they could not work with the producers they had and the first full version of the film did not could be turned. The last film, crime thriller and black comedy shot in 12 days, which does not renounce the original story, was made on the basis of a second, shorter script. This film is also the result of collective work in the face of financial difficulties.
You me Lenin did not have a mass audience in Turkey at the time of its release, in part because it could only be seen in 124 theaters in its first week. Additionally, that number dropped to 30 theaters in the second week; the film remained in theaters for only four weeks. During the pandemic, which has profoundly affected production and access to cultural and artistic works, filmmakers have made the effort to have You me Lenin published to reach a wider audience.
Despite being set in a single location, the film manages to keep audiences glued to the screen with its fast pace and the tragicomic situations of the townspeople. Through the theft of Lenin’s statue, the film is able to address a phenomenon that has happened countless times over the past four decades: the kidnapping and disappearance by the Turkish state of leftists and Kurdish nationalists. This criminal practice, which became widespread after the NATO-backed military coup in 1980, peaked in the early 1990s.
One of the film’s main characters, Gül Ana (Nur Sürer) explains that her leftist husband was arrested by the police in the early 1990s and disappeared into the Black Sea. The disappearance at sea is reminiscent of the first major state murder in the period of the founding of the Turkish republic. Mustafa Suphi, leader of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), founded as a section of the Communist International in 1920, along with 14 comrades, was boarded on a boat and assassinated in the Black Sea by elements linked to the Kemalist government of Turkey. Ankara.
You me Lenin unfolds through scenes of interrogation of those involved in the incident in the town. Investigation reveals that the statue was not stolen by enemies of Lenin, but by a group of idealistic leftists who are disturbed by the attempt to exploit it as a commodity to promote tourism. At this point, the police begin to interrogate known leftists in this seaside town.
Fikret (Serdar Orçin), who photographed the statue, says: “At first, I liked the statue on display. I was happy that people were interested in Lenin and learned about the experience of the Soviet Union. But then things got out of hand. Unimaginable things have happened.
İdil (Melis Birkan), a newly hired young teacher in the city, explains: “On the one hand, the business turned into a business; on the other hand, the statue has been transformed into a mausoleum. While I thought Lenin would change the city, the city changed Lenin. That more or less sums up what happens in the community after the statue washes ashore.
Throughout the film, the interrogated characters suspected of having stolen Lenin’s work reflect to some extent the current political and class structure of the country.
You me Lenin impresses the viewer with its music, as well as its cast and cinematography. In the final moments of the film, a song based on Mendilim by Kan Sesleri(The voices of blood in my handkerchief) a poem by Edip Cansever, one of the most important poets of the “Second New Movement”, composed by Barış Diri, is performed.
You me Lenin is one of the best films of the dark comedy genre that has appeared in Turkey in recent years. The film was watched with great interest after its release on Netflix and continues to be popular with audiences. In the interview with Bağımsız Sinema, director Taştan observed: “I am of the opinion that it is not Lenin’s statue that is important, but his ideas. In You Me Lenin, we wanted to raise this issue.