zenne dancer: but is it really belly dance?

I am somehow adverse to gay movies. I don’t watch Queer as Folk, I don’t watch Dante’s Cove (haha, softcore porn, anyone?), I don’t watch Milk, I don’t watch Happy Together, heck, I don’t even watch Brokeback Mountain nor Naked Boys Singing nor Cloud Atlas (although technically it’s not a gay movie) and Boys Don’t Cry bored me to tears. I also don’t watch Glee or Sex in the City and I think Will & Grace is not funny. That being said, I love The Hours and Kinky Boots. And To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. And Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. And RuPaul’s Starrbooty. 

Zenne DancerWhat can I say, I’ve always loved showbiz. And speaking of which, as a small-time belly dancer, this particular Turkish / German movie intrigued me, and ever since news of it came out last year (or in 2011?) I’d been searching for it. A few days ago I finally found it and well, here’s the review.

Zenne is based on a true story of honor killing of one Ahmet Yildiz on a summer night of 2008. The suspect is his own father who cannot accept his son’s homosexuality, and Yildiz’s father is still at large.

Aside from bad acting from Giovanni Arvaneh (who played Daniel Bert the German photographer), everyone else is stellar in this movie. And I love Demir Demirkan’s version of Erik Satie’s Gnossienne no. 1.

I’ve never been to Turkey. A few years ago, when Mom and I planned on going there, two bombs went off in Istanbul. So we visited Italy and Greece instead. Then the uprising happened (and is still happening), so good for them for being fed up with the government but I really, really want to go, so bad for me because the situation is probably unpredictable as of right now.

My point is, I don’t know what Turkey is like, but Zenne is set in Istanbul and many parts are presented in the movie. There are some chic parts of the city and there are some poorer parts. This diversity is also evident in the way different families view homosexuality. The family of Can (the dancer, played by Kerem Can) loves him to death, even the guy who’s having a relationship with Can’s aunt. Well, Can’s brother (played by the oh so sexy Tolga Tekin) is a bully, but that’s probably because he’s burnt out from the war. We’ll discuss this later. Meanwhile, Ahmet’s (played brilliantly by Erkan Avci) parents are portrayed as being unable to accept their gay son while Ahmet’s sister (also played brilliantly by Esme Madra) loves Ahmet.

L-R: Can (the dancer), Ahmet, and Daniel (the photographer).

L-R: Can (the dancer), Ahmet, and Daniel (the photographer).

Can’s father died in the war, and well, his brother has post-war stress. Can’s mother and aunt don’t want him to go to war so he has to stay indoors during day time to avoid ID checks.

Daniel the photographer meets Can at a gay club where Can dances. Daniel wants to photograph Can in costume. Ahmet is present when Daniel meets Can for the second time and then for the third time, and well, love blooms. Daniel, being German (developed country that recognizes homosexual rights) fear for Ahmet’s life and wants to take Ahmet with him to Bavaria. However, both Can and Ahmet have to go to the military post first to claim their homosexuality so they don’t have to be enlisted.

Can and Ahmet, so chic!

Can and Ahmet, so chic!

So how exactly does one claim one’s homosexuality and escape conscription? Easy! Just bring evidence (photos) of being fucked by another guy. Ahmet and Daniel go off to get busy while Can finds someone else. Can waxes Ahmet’s hairy back and dresses him up and puts makeup on him as they go to the military post and tells Ahmet to tell the examiners that he’s also a zenne (dancer). Their plan works, Can and Ahmet don’t have to enlist. 

However, Ahmet left his sex photos in his car, and the private detective paid by Ahmet’s father to stalk him discovers the photos and gives them to Ahmet’s father as proof of Ahmet’s homosexuality. Ahmet says goodbye to Can, then goes to Daniel to leave for Bavaria. Ahmet never arrives. He’s shot to death on the pavement.

Isn’t it scarily amazing how one can escape from one type of death and yet the thing that enables such escape leads one to another type of death?

The thing that really gets me is how Daniel (again, he’s from Germany, a developed nation) forces Ahmet to just tell his parents that he’s gay, repeatedly asking what can possibly go wrong, they are his parents and they love him and will accept him. Oh, Lord. Talk about ignorance. This is why I think people from countries with advanced laws concerning human rights live in glass bubble. I envy them, while at the same time I’m sorry for their ignorance.

Daniel with Ahmet.

Daniel with Ahmet.

At one time, after he’s done photography children in a poor district, Daniel says to Ahmet, “You should’ve seen those children. They’re smiling and laughing. There’s hope in their eyes.”

To which Ahmet replies, “No, they’re smiling and laughing because you give them chocolate.”

That’s right. You don’t know how it is to be stuck in a third-world country where gays are prosecuted and women have minimal rights. You come here for your project, to win prizes and money and then you go home and the people you’ve met become nothing but distant memories and you pray for them for a short while (if you still pray), and then you go on with your life.

At least Daniel wants to bring Ahmet back to Bavaria and give him a better life.

I don't think belly dancers wear this kind of costume. Well, probably some dancers at Tribal Fest do.

I don’t think belly dancers wear this kind of costume. Well, probably some dancers at Total Fuckery Tribal Fest do.

Finally, one thing that bothers me is that this story hinges on the appeal of male belly dancer. I don’t know. I’ve been a belly dance student since 2008 and I don’t think Can does belly dance. When Daniel meets Can for the first time, he says he’s interested in male belly dancer and that he wants to photograph Can in costume. So I assume that’s what people think belly dancing is?

I know, I know, who am I to say what belly dancing is or isn’t? Well, I have a belly dance blog, and I usually review belly dance movies there and there’s a reason I’m not posting my review of Zenne Dancer on my belly dance blog.

Oh and by the way, as usual: here’s a sexy image.

Cihan (Tolga Tekin) showing Ahmet what they do in the military. Mmmhmm. Sign me up!

Cihan (Tolga Tekin) showing Ahmet what they do in the military. Mmmhmm. Sign me up for the next war!

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