Anatolian Leopard (Sydney Film Festival) – Film Review

Directed by Emre Kayiş in his debut feature, Anatolian Leopard is a Turkish drama film that stars Uğur Polat as the film’s main character and co-stars Ipek Türktan.

Set in Ankara, Turkey where we are introduced to Fikret (Uğur Polat), a bitter middle-aged man who runs a decrepit zoo. The zoo is under threat of being turned into an amusement park by a group of overseas investors, however the only thing standing in the way of this happening is the zoo’s endangered leopard. Although, when the leopard passes away, Fikret smuggles the leopard out of the zoo to bury it in hopes to delay the zoo’s closure. While there is an investigation to locate the missing leopard, Fikret‘s assistant Ankara (Ipek Türktan) helps hide the fact that the leopard has passed away.

I really wanted to enjoy this film as I loved the film’s premise, but the film fell flat. The acting and the way that the characters are presented in a subdued way, makes for a difficult experience of trying to be invested in the story and the character development. This made the 108-minute duration of Anatolian Leopard feel longer than it needed to be.

There aren’t really any standout acting performances as every actor delivers the same monotone performance, which while I understood suited the style of the film, it still would have been nice to have seen some variety. The film can feel a little disjointed at times as it feels like it is on the verge of becoming a detective film when the police and the government suspect that the leopard may have been kidnapped, which if you ask me, might have been a bit of an improvement if the film started to have more traces of being a detective drama rather than being the melancholic drama that the film does end up being.

One thing that I think that Anatolian Leopard did right was that it set the tone that it was going to be a depressing film. Set in winter, the weather is shown as raining or just looked generally miserable, which suites the style and mood of the movie. What bothered me was that all the events occurred in one yet, yet nothing seemed to change environment and setting wise, despite the story developing. For example, after the leopard passes away, Fikret and Ankara must pretend that it has gone missing. I expected that the story would perk up and the stakes would become higher, but it all just feels more of the same, which I found quite frustrating.

Anatolian Leopard is a film with an interesting premise, but sadly, its execution is underwhelming, which makes for a mostly unremarkable viewing experience.

Anatolian Leopard premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and will be showing as part of the Sydney Film Festival on 10th and 14th of June 2022.

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