Genç Pehlivanlar (Young Wrestlers)
Genç Pehlivanlar (Young Wrestlers) is a universal film about an unfamiliar subject. Dutch filmmaker Mete Gümürhan points an unobtrusive lens close to the action in this 90-minute documentary. This nuanced film records the quotidian sweat, tears, friendship and toil, not just experienced by wrestlers, but by all adolescents. We witness training and are taken behind closed doors, becoming emotionally invested in the lives of these young fighters.
The formulaic and intensive lifestyle is unassumingly conveyed; there is no soundtrack, except for the Black Keys’ Lonely Boy, which kicks in with vehemence at the end. Instead, the lack of music amplifies sounds often ignored: hoarse pants, laughter, the shouts of instructors and the thuds of boys hitting plastic mats. At times, this ultra-realism is difficult to watch – it’s too clear a reflection of our childhood struggles. But this is proof of the film’s power. Gümürhan demonstrates undeniable skill, stripping away all the artifice that could complicate the documentary. Its focus is clear.
The production never loses its sense of place: the heat and atmosphere of Turkey are palpable. The varying landscape is captured with shots of mountains, dusty roads and the classroom flowing seamlessly into each other. The camera focuses on the minutiae, often zooming close to faces at moments of intense pressure, such as Baran’s struggle to perform pull-ups, or Beytullah’s nose inspection. Any Hollywood director would have pounced on the violence integral to wrestling, but Young Wrestlers does not fall into that trap.
It is a documentary with a niche subject at its heart. Initially, it verges on tedious, especially for viewers with little or no interest in wrestling. But as the narrative progresses, it is clear that it has more to it: it observes the universal process of growing up and being away from home. It symbolically captures the transition between childhood and adolescence, which is like a wrestling match. Young Wrestlers is slow-paced, it is not a blockbuster or likely to be a huge hit, but that is not its intention. It makes you think without telling you what to think, and immerses its audience in the culture and lives of young wrestlers.
Genç Pehlivanlar (Young Wrestlers) does not have a UK release date yet
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Watch the Trailer for Genç Pehlivanlar (Young Wrestlers) here: