Pazar - Bir ticaret masali, the latest film (shot in Turkish) by English director Ben Hopkins, has been given the title of The Market: A Tale of Trade (official site) for its international release. This is trade at its most basic, a bazaar of barter, seen through the adventures of hero Mihram ("Saint Mihram," as he's called by cynics who doubt his ability to stay relatively honest, is admirably incarnated by Tayanç Ayaydin, a 30 year old Turkish actor who, by the way, can do a great bearded Jack Nicholson impersonation).
There is muted humor in The Market, as befits a director whose work includes a title like 37 Uses For a Dead Sheep - Ben Hopkins' 2006 documentary on nomads who populate another corner of eastern Turkey. The locations are suitably bleak, appropriate for a setting along the border of what used to be the fault line between the Soviet Union and NATO's easternmost member.
Though the story of a smalltime trader on the make is timeless, Hopkins adds an extra layer of authenticity by situating it in the early 90s. The USSR has recently broken up, neighboring Azerbaijan is dismantling (read pillaging) its Soviet infrastructure and dabbling in "the market" (read mafia) and Turkey is beginning to install a mobile phone network. The US dollar (cash) is the preferred financial instrument. Opportunity beckons for Mihram.
The Market: A Tale of Trade offers choice illustrations of many "capitalist" sub themes:
- Everything Has Its Price
- Business Is Business
- Information Is Power
Mihram is both an advocate for and a victim of all of the above. If your pickup truck is your office, and if items on either side of the border have different "supply and demand" curves, you probably need a good business plan.
If your business plan's major elements are prayer (including a shaky vow to lay off the liquor) and gambling, or is too complicated to explain to your wife, then its chances of succeeding are, shall we say, aleatory. Luck is a helpful element in any business, but when your multiple commitments, based on the same wad of cash, start to unravel, you have to be luckier than Mihram's track record would indicate.
You can enjoy The Market on many levels: excellent acting by unknown (in the West, anyway) new faces; a feel for life in those indeterminate border zones where rules are something for the books; an allegory for how all of our lives are influenced by "market forces." Ben Hopkins' "Director's Statement" is definitely worth reading, as it traces how he came to write the screenplay "that dealt with my conflicting feelings about capitalism - my admiration for its creativity and innovation, and my cynicism that it can ever deliver its benefits without inequality and exploitation."
After months of Madoff and banks, bailouts, and bonuses, it's refreshing that Ben Hopkins provides a look at trade, one of the very basics of society's economic relations. But who other than Hopkins would have thought to stage a timely and timeless capitalist drama on the dusty steppes of Central Asia?