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The Poor
(Zavallilar)

Directed by Yilmaz Güney and Atif Yilmaz.
With Yilmaz Güney, Yildirim Önal, Güven Sengil.
Turkey, 1974, 35mm, color, 72 min.
Turkish with English subtitles.

Like so many of Güney’s subsequent films, The Poor is about prisoners. The film opens on a winter night as three convicts are released. A complex structure of flashbacks describes how they came to be imprisoned, while at the same time following the men through the night as they find themselves faced with reentering a society in which they are outcasts. All have had lives marked with betrayal, degradation and violence stemming from their poverty. Filming was interrupted in mid-production when Güney was himself briefly imprisoned for having sheltered some anarchist students. Rather than delay the film’s completion, Güney asked his mentor Atif Yilmaz to finish it, despite the major revisions required since Güney himself had been playing one of the three leads. The result is a fascinating mix of hard-bitten realism and florid melodrama. – DP

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