“Zara” is about how people are forced to live their fate not only as an external state, but equally so as an inner destiny. Therein, several time levels are involved: a past which is lost, a present which is ruined, and a future which is colored with hope. An open, empty plain stretches out around the village of Zara, dotted with ruins of abandoned places. Here, the film's characters are searching for what they've lost: letters, childhoods, homes, friends, parents and children…

The village of Zara constitutes the fulcrum of a quest for a safe place – a search which gives rise to the unfolding of the remembered and the dreamt; all within the realm of the imagined present.

Director: Ayten Mutlu Saray

Drama // CH, NL, TR, AT 2009 // 85 min // 35 mm // Color // OVdf

Swiss Film Award 2009: Best Film Music

Theatrical release: autumn 2010



ZARA, directed by Ayten Mutlu Saray by Mohamed Said-Ouma, FIFAI programmer (

At first the mother, then a man named Hidir, then a voice, soft and gentle like the sound of love, then the question: 'Why the searching?' To enter 'Zara', the first feature by director Ayten Mutlu Saray, is to enter a world artfully and accurately designed, a world made of wanderings, interrogations over a minimalistic landscape. A world where pain and inherited suffering may be read in the character‟s faces. A young woman dressed in a red cotton ensemble is left for dead in a river. Her blonde friend asks: what is the meaning of 'Zara'? The birth of the way, the voice says. Its opposite being death. Children's pictures burnt as a leitmotiv, is that a metaphor for the living dead ? The symmetry of the composition, the well crafted shots, the detailed scenes and precise direction given to the characters , even the peripheral ones, betrays an affirmative filmmaker touch that take the lonely figure of the mother as a the central driving point. At the end of the first sequences of the film, the symbolism of death culminates in one of the most beautiful scenes and set-ups of Zara: The father figure or 'the lost one' projected in a picture over an empty bed, on which a Saz - a traditional - instrument has been placed. Death, suffering and resilience, are so absorbed and integrated that they melt into each character's gestures and help design the constrained violence. Zara becomes then a suffocating, oppressing visual experience and questions what operates in cinema. Fluid camera moves, 'plans' of the threatening military presence in the background, aerial soundscapes amid subtly accurate use of colors bring us to the core of the social and political context of Zara. There is no initial situation to be analyzed as the graffiti sprayed on the ground is explicit enough. 'Zara' - or the way to Zara - bring us in a land devastated by small fires or the boiling waters of a mad man.

Are Zeynep, Mirka, and the Mother the same character at different steps of life? The question is the answer. The female figure is central. The father being the one „trapped in his fear and who got everyone else imprisoned‟. Then „Zara‟ approaches the Somali writer Nurrdin Farah‟s concept of „my country is in my mind‟. The love for a country that does not even exist. „Zara came into this world in a language that is not his or hers but in one they were forced to think and to love with..‟ Aren‟t we all - as Mirka does - carrying on our backs our loved ones, our passed ones? And may be muslim women are like her, carrying the heavy burdens of the holy colors of islam - the white and green - while men are incapable of speaking the langage of love. Islam being love and love being carried through rituals for the divine light of love. 'Zara' then disturbs and innovates in its strong affirming process of embracing love through islam. A feature length film, narrated in a fluid parallel editing technique.

Ayten Mutlu Saray's debut augurs a cinematic language that has integrated the codes and sense of rythm and space of the forefathers of „cinéma d‟auteur‟. She looks set to transcend them and create a body of work which aims to avoid the trap of merely being another exotic oriental filmmaker from the middle east. Another flavor of the month to fascinate western film buffs and critics. Zara is neither easy to watch nor easy on the clichés. Ayten Mutlu Saray takes the hardest way but the right way: an endogeneous way. The film crosses borders and genres and renders the suffocating feel bearable through an organic soundscape by composer Marcel Vaid. 

„Zara‟ being a filmed protest against the walls that people build to repell each other. „Zara‟ or the birth of an author and the rebirth of a way for all of us, living in our confused southern hemisphere islamic countries, to create a new language of love. Marhaba (thanks) Ayten Mutlu Saray, one of Tarkovki's brightest daughters.

Moroni/december 2010 /Union of Comoros.