Ice Cream / I Scream!

Ice Cream / I Scream (Dondurmam gaymak)
Turkey 2006, 111 min

An excellent bitter-sweet comedy with lots of universal messages...

Ice Cream / I scream directed by Yüksel Aksu was entirely filmed at a rural setting in a town called Mugla in South West of Turkey.

This is a catchy English title, and certainly suits the film, as there is a lot of screaming in this film! Original name means "Creamy Ice Cream" as "Dondurma" only means "frozen" in Turkish, but when used in context everyone knows it is ice cream. Traditional vendors yell "Dondurmam Gaymak" to attract customers by saying "My Ice cream is very creamy" basically.

The town's location where the film was shot is very close to world famous excellent beaches and seaside resorts both metropolitan Turkish and international tourists enjoy. Ironically the town people carry on their traditional ways of living oblivious to this fact.

The film is a documentary in a way. Except the leading character Turan Ozdemir, all the players are the real residents of the town, who never saw a camera in their lives before this film.

It is also a tribute of the director to his hometown- As he wanted to document the town people, their ways of living, belief systems and the local dialect. He was especially keen on documenting the dialect, which is actually a funny and cute dialect for the rest of us who speak the formal language.

The ordinary town people were trained by a famous Turkish actor named Mehmet Ali Alabora, for 10 weeks. Some of them did not even know how to read or write.

What it is about??? It is about a local ice cream vendor named Ali Usta's (Master Ali) fight against the large holding companies for his living. As the only bread-winner to feed many hungry mouths at home - his wife's, his daughter's and his grand children's. Ali Usta feels very threatened. He thinks that the large firms are after him, to push him out of business. His war is like the famous war against the windmills, except that they are not imaginary rivals, but real huge firms of capitalism. Ali Usta makes his own ice cream the traditional way with high quality ingredients, and he is very proud of it. He notices that brand name ice creams made by international firms are taking over the market, and mainly by advertising and media, not because they are of better quality. He therefore uses a bank loan to do advertisements himself as well. He could only afford to broadcast at a very local TV station. The joke is that even the news broadcasters speak in the local dialect at that station. The news included very local ones, such as "so and so's son, and "so and so's" daughter has eloped together (as every body knows each other in that town.). Unfortunately this great joke was not included in the subtitles. He also gets a pretty motorbike and a cart to be able to go to even more remote areas to promote and sell his ice cream. Where the audience gets to see the beautiful South Western Turkey, with rolling green hills, rivers and sunny beaches.

This film was made with almost no funding. According to the director he could not raise any money, as he did not cast famous superstars in it.
Unfortunately all the women are portrayed in the film like bitches. They constantly yell at their husbands or kids. I don't think this was intended. I believe the director wanted to show that those women in that rural area actually have quite a lot of power in the family.

The role of Islam in Turkish culture is shown - The soft, loving side of Islam, the Turkish Islam synthesis. Not like the fundamentalist's Islam, say like in Saudi Arabia, and certainly not like the one shown on CNN.

The film has constant dialogues, some of which are simple, others very philosophical. Subtitles unfortunately sometimes are inadequate, or too simplistic.

Overall I rate this film very high, it is a must see. I congratulate the crew and the people of Mugla, and celebrate the film's success. The film is very unique, completely Turkish, yet universal.

By Bahar Çinarli

October 2008

Old Articles by Bahar Cinarli:
Two films represented Turkey at the VIFF
Three Monkeys, another fascinating film of N. B. Ceylan
A Standing Ovation For The Young Talent Deniz Tahberer
The Band's Visit (Birkur Ha-Tizmoret-2007)