As Turkey as a nation turns its attention to the world, Turkish cinema looks inward. This year’s Boston Turkish Film Festival features works in which directors reflect on the relationship between the secular and the religious, between men and women, and between fate and identity.

It sounds like Fyodor Dostoyevsky in 19th-century Russia, which is perhaps why Zeki Demirkubuz drew inspiration from the great novelist. The waiting room (2003) is the self-reflexive adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Demirkubuz Crime and Punishment, and his latest film, Inside (2012; Mar 21 @ 7:30 p.m.), tackles the most enigmatic novel by the Russian writer, Metro Notes.

Engin Günaydýn embodies the”underground man” updated, an artistically frustrated and envious desktop drone whose closest relationship is with his housekeeper and a potato, all complemented by his own bitter philosophy. A congratulatory farewell party for one of his despised friends (winner of the “best novel” for Boredom in Ankara) sends it collapsing into self-destruction. Finally finding someone more miserable than him, a numb prostitute, he happily rejects his last chance for redemption. Demirkubuz evokes the claustrophobic impasse of his character with an almost exhilarating acuteness that is matched only by the intense performance of Günaydýn.

Literally underground are the characters of veteran Turkish director Erden Kıral Charged (2012; March 22 at 8 p.m.). Due to circumstances that must be pieced together from the real and imagined incidents of Kıral’s dreamlike and achronological tale, two men find themselves in a fight to the death in a coal mine. Both are torn by guilt, by duty, and by questionable notions of manhood. Kıral presents the dripping bowels of the mine and its raw mechanics as a character in itself, and the smile that ends the movie is the scariest part of all.

Demirkubuz and Kıral will attend the screening of their films and receive an award. As always, the festival offers an exciting and revealing glimpse into a rich national cinema that has yet to be properly recognized.

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12TH BOSTON TURKISH FILM FESTIVAL:: Museum of Fine Arts :: March 21-April 7

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