YOUR BEAUTY IS WORTH NOTHING
Karlovy Vary Film Review
by Stephen Farber, The Hollywood REporter
Hüseyin Tabak's first feature is told from a 12-year-old Turkish boy's perspective as he and his family deal with the challenges
of immigration in Austria.
In the last few years, several memorable foreign films have reminded us that immigration is a volatile subject all over the
world. Most European countries are wrestling with the issue, and this is reflected in a rich variety of films. Very few of
them can match Your Beauty Is Worth Nothing, a new Austrian film from first-time director Hüseyin Tabak, which had its world premiere this week in Karlovy Vary. This
poetic feature told from a childs perspective is so elegant and moving that it deserves to find a venturesome American
distributor committed to showcasing new talent. Audience response will be potent wherever the film plays.
The main character, 12-year-old Veysel (Abdulkadir Tuncer), named after beloved Turkish poet Asik Veysel, has been living
for six months in Vienna with his family. His father is a Kurd who left home to fight with guerrillas against the Turkish
government, while his mother is Turkish. Veysels older brother Mazlum (Yusa Durak), who still resents his father for
having abandoned the family, has left home and joined a violent street gang in Vienna. The threat of deportation always hangs
over the familys heads, which adds to the tension at home. At school Veysel is ignored by his teachers because he speaks
very little German. He is infatuated with a classmate, Ana (Milica Paucic), a Yugoslavian immigrant, and he solicits some
romantic counsel from a macho neighbor (the magnetic Orhan Yildirim) whose gruff manner hides a kind heart.
Veysels subjective point of view is beautifully sustained throughout the film; wistful dream sequences blend imperceptibly
into the boys real life. Some of the family conflicts are almost unbearably painful, but there is also considerable
humor in Veysels interactions with his impatient, worldly wise neighbor. Matters come to a crisis when Mazlum is arrested
for drug dealing, but in a way this crisis brings the rest of the family members closer together, and Veysel also forges a
tentative connection with Ana. The films title comes from a poem by Asik Veysel that the young hero is struggling to
translate into German so that Ana and his classmates at school can understand the words that mesmerize him.
Tabak has an intuitive sense of just how much fantasy to include, and he achieves the most devastating emotion without ever
allowing the film to tip over into sentimentality. Young Tuncer has a face that the camera loves, but all of the performances
are perfectly modulated. Some of the Austrian characters verge on one-dimensional crassness, but Veysel and his family do
find a few compassionate supporters. A scene in which Veysel visits his brother in prison, and another in which his uncommunicative
father (the superb Nazmi Kirik) finally opens up, will leave most audiences choking back tears. Theres an unexpected
twist at the end that seems exactly right. In fact, its hard to find any significant flaw in this movie. Cinematography
and music contribute to the haunting mood. This may be the role of a lifetime for young Tuncer, but we can certainly look
forward to more marvelous work from Tabak, a director who seems to have a world of possibilities before him.