Writer-Director Emre Sahin and his successful production company Karga7 like to draw stories and real topics from the real world.
Turkish-American Sahin grew up in Istanbul and played soccer for Boston’s Emerson College. He wanted to do a story about the people being evicted in order to rebuild Istanbul. Erdogan’s gentrification of the poor neighborhoods has resulted in massive changes instituted over a mere 5-10 years instead of centuries.
In the feature film The Team, also known as Takim: Mahalle Aşkina!, two brothers fight to preserve their family’s hourly rental football pitch against the criminal tactics of a real estate developer. Deep in debt and needing to raise funds, the brothers form a team to enter a 5-v-5 street soccer tournament. Winning the tournament will allow them to keep their little neighborhood field.
Brothers Turgay (Yağiz Can Konyali) and Tufan (Firat Tanis) must guide their individualistic showboating street footballers, who are of diverse and conflicting backgrounds, to come together as friends and family in order to play as a team. Much like one of my favorite films The Magnificent Seven, the brothers recruit players of different skill sets and end up with a Kurd, a gypsy, a pretty girl, an African refugee, a Muslim, and a player of middle class. As a former pro with connections, Tufan trains the team by playing them in a “fight club” environment, where rowdy tough crowds bet on pick up games.
The movie’s themes and hopeful message stand out. The team bonds over comfort food at a shared table, where players confront their differences and argue over which one is more oppressed. They name their team “Beans over Rice”, and they stick together despite poor play and criminal attacks. Takim is a very human, feel-good movie that also gives you some insight into Turkish issues.
In casting the film, actors were tested on their footballing ability. Beyza Şekerci, who plays the female footballer Gülgün, is actually a ballerina, but Pascal Nouma, who plays the refugee Puma, was a popular Beşiktaş footballer during 2000-2003.
During 1.5 months of pre-production training, each player was taught 10 moves that could be used in the film. The opponents are actual street soccer teams that the film team had to compete against. Unfortunately, despite those efforts, the games are a heavily spliced fabrication that feel more like a metaphor for soccer, and they surprisingly bog down the film for me.
In some ways, Takim is somewhat of a fairy tale. Sadly, it was shot in the summer of 2014 in the Fikirtepe neighborhood, which subsequently became a very victim of Istanbul gentrification and no longer exists. The real estate bubble is close to bursting, and while homes were torn down, new construction was either not completed or not even started. As of the end of 2018, many residents who sold out to developers are homeless.
What’s difficult for me to balance is the fact that Takim was filmed the year after the Gezi protests. The 2014 documentary Istanbul United captured the passion of people versus government, and the aftermath documented in Ayaktakimi continued to show Erdogan’s crackdown and corruption. In contrast, the hopefulness of Takim takes the edge off the situation and perhaps whitewashes it. As Karga7 increases its work in Turkey, it makes me wonder if their success is a reflection of ambitious people toeing the line. Or is this a welcome film to a very flexible culture that adapts to survive in a tyrannical world, and they just want something to smile about.
8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8