Kulüp (2021, Netflix)

This stunningly beautiful period limited series puts a spotlight on Istanbul’s jewish community back in the 1950s and shows this incredibly vibrant city was once even more multicultural. Through its characters, Kulüp tells the stories of the many communities that lived in Turkey back in the day — Sephardic Jews, Armenians and Greeks, among others.

Pulling no punches, this production has no issues exposing dark chapters in Turkish history, especially about the discrimination meted out to its minority communities back in the day. Sentiments against non-Muslims were on the rise that eventually resulted in [spoiler alert] the Istanbul riots of 1955.

The main protagonist, Matilda Aseo (Gökçe Bahadır), is a Sephardic Jew from Istanbul. Released from jail after 17 years, Matilda is determined to start a new life in Israel, but things don’t go as planned for her and she ends up deciding to meet and make amends with the daughter she gave up when she was born.

In order to secure her freedom and make a living for the both of them, she starts working at the Club, a lavish nightclub in the heart of Istanbul, one of the few that has retained its minority staff and where the owner is determined to change the Turkish live entertainment scene. But the manager of the club, Çelebi, has a grudge against Matilda, one that she’s unaware of.

A Turkish drama series about Istanbul’s Jewish past, a documentary about a brilliant Nepali mountaineer and an Aaron Sorkin film about Lucille Ball… there’s something for everyone

He is also connected to her family’s downfall during a very dark chapter of Turkish history — the controversial 1942 Wealth Tax that deprived hundreds of non-Muslims of their wealth and property and reduced many of them to labour camps, in which some even died.

Part Two of this incredible series has just been released. Kulüp has been praised worldwide for its fantastic portrayal of dying languages, cultures and rituals once commonplace in Istanbul.

14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible (2021, Netflix)

Narrated by the legendary Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, the first person to ascend all fourteen 8,000m peaks in the world, 14 Peaks follows the journey of Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja MBE as he attempts to make history. He successfully climbed all 14 peaks the fastest — in just over six months. It usually takes people years.

He was also among the group of Nepali mountaineers who did the first successful winter summit of K2. Nims Purja was also perhaps the only one who did not use supplemental oxygen when attempting this nearly impossible feat.

The documentary 14 Peaks takes us on a journey to Nims’ home village, introduces us to his family and the young, sporty version of him up to when he officially became a Gurkha and later joined the British Army. The film takes us on a journey through the peaks of Nepal and then, of course, Pakistan and follows Nims as he and his co-mountaineers secured a rare permission to climb Shishapangma in China. They were the only mountaineers attempting that 8,000er in that season.

It’s an inspirational documentary showing a Nepali trying to shine the spotlight back again on his own countrymen for mountaineering achievements — something they were deprived of for decades, even as they were the force behind teams of foreigners claiming the summits of their mountains.

It’s a film that will be greatly enjoyed by mountain enthusiasts, especially those that closely followed Nirmal Purja’s exploits in both Nepal and Pakistan. Nothing is, indeed, impossible.

Being the Ricardos (2021, Netflix)

Nicole Kidman just received a Golden Globe for her role in this film. Being the Ricardos is a biographical drama about America’s sweethearts, the stars behind the popular 1950s’ TV show I Love Lucy, namely Lucielle Ball (played by Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (played by Javier Bardem).

It’s a well-made, entertaining biopic with spitfire dialogue that has you snickering at the screen throughout. This Aaron Sorkin-directed film sees the couple face immense problems at work as they deal with political smear, cultural taboos and shocking personal accusations that rock their entire relationship.

The film provides a revealing look at the couple’s complex romantic and progressional relationship and it takes you behind-the-scenes of what was really going on on the sets of I Love Lucy. I was a little unsure before getting into the film, but Kidman’s acting is fearless and she shares a wonderful chemistry with Bardem. It’s a good film to watch on the weekend.

Published in Dawn, ICON, January 16th, 2022

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