Turkey, Germany, The Netherlands, Greece


Three sisters Reyhan, Nurhan and Havva are reunited in the remote mountain village where they grew up with their father, after having lived as ‘besleme’ (foster child and maid) with their foster parents in the city. All three desire to return to the city as soon as possible, whether this might be achieved depends on their tactics of solidarity, competition, and on the decisions of the men around them including their father, their foster-father, and Reyhan’s husband.

Director's Statement


Taking in foster children in families that can afford is a custom which was once widespread in Anatolia, but has been more and more abandoned lately. This type of institution offers a most interesting opportunity to study human and social potentials and characteristics, particularly social differences and class inequalities.

The social position of a traditional 'besleme' resembles neither a live-in servant in the European sense, nor an adoption in its true sense, but something in between the two. In contrast to a servant, a 'besleme' is actually considered a family member and addresses the people for whom she works as mother and father, but whose job is always to work like a servant and to look after the children. Even though the 'besleme's position is better than that of a servant, it carries more difficult, confusing, conflicting and painful implications. Nevertheless, becoming a 'besleme' can be a good opportunity for a poor girl. It presents a way of escape from the archaic conditions in the village and to maybe arrange an advantageous marriage with someone from the town.

The psychology of ‘beslemes’ always interested me since it involves a stark conflict and ambivalence. Most of the ‘beslemes' feel themselves as misfits in their new locations in town and never feel themselves at home, however, they never wish to return to their old poverty and thus are stuck in a kind of purgatory.

In this story, I was really excited to follow the constantly changing mood and emotions of my characters, who are under constant pressure from their natural and social environment and from their own longings and desires. The emotional ambivalence, emanating from the conflicting social position of the girls, permeates the whole story and all characters. The mood of the sisters rapidly changes from love, affection and solidarity to a feeling of intense competition and jealousy. The competition, which is the result of their desire for a better life, goes hand in hand with a feeling of love for each other and never completely overshadows the latter. The feeling of transience overwhelms the girls.

The ambivalent mood and feelings are not only observed among the sisters, but also in almost all characters. All the characters in the film are neither good nor bad. The conditions they live in are harsh and sometimes this forces them to behave brutally, but they are all vulnerable and have a sensitive heart as well. Their life is unfortunate and they are stuck in unfavourable conditions, yet they are not merely toys of fate. Their life is also tragic, in the sense that they themselves have tragic flaws and share responsibility in their fall and suffering.

A TALE OF THREE SISTERS not only examines social inequality, the search for ways out, the hopes and expectations tied to new locations but also the hopelessness and lack of opportunities that poor people, in particular experience. My aim is to talk about these emotions through the story of three sisters in a Turkish village. This is not a specific story taking place in a limited locality but a universal one, as humans constantly encounter similar social situations and emotions in various geographical regions and different contexts. By telling this story I want to talk about crushing poverty, as well as wishes and hopes for escape and change.

The story, for me, is a harsh and realistic one but at the same it is like a fairy tale, since it takes place in a remote village in a non-specific time. So the setting and the lightning were very important for me to create a kind of fairy tale atmosphere. For this, I chose the chiaroscuro of the Dutch painters as a reference point. I believe this kind of visual style perfectly fits the fairy tale atmosphere while simultaneously reflecting the gloomy conditions of our characters.

Director's Biography

Emin Alper was born in 1974 in Ermenek, Karaman (Turkey). Trained in economics and history at Bogazici University, Istanbul, Ermin holds a PhD in Turkish Modern History. Aside from his filmmaking career, Emin Alper teaches modern history in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at Istanbul Technical University.

2015 - FRENZY

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Emin Alper

Written by: Emin Alper

Produced by: Nadir Öperli, Muzaffer Yildirim, Jonas Dornbach, Janine Jackowski, Maren Ade, Stienette Bosklopper, Yorgos Tsourgiannis

Cinematography: Emre Erkmen

Editing: Cicek Kahraman

Production Design: Ismail Durmaz

Costume Design: Alceste Tosca Wegner

Make-Up & Hair: Esma Keskin

Original Score: Giorgos Papaioannou, Nikos Papaioannou

Sound: Marcel De Hoogd

Visual Effects: Volkan Duran

Cast: Cemre Ebuzziya (Reyhan), Ece Yuksel (Nurhan), Helin Kandemir (Havva), Kayhan Acikgoz (Veysel), Mufit Kayacan (Sevket)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2019