Under Review: ‘Honey’ (aka ‘Bal’)


You enter through the dark, with the night noises of the forest, the stream rushing over rocks, the bustle of insects thriving in anonymity, and a gentle air brushing through trees. Then it’s daylight and a kindly man with his white horse is scouting the filigreed woods, listening. Something plops down on him. He scoops it with his finger, smelling and then licking to taste. Honey.

This quiet film’s soundtrack is nature. Insects buzzing, breeze wisping in and out of dappled foliage and birds echoing through the ravines. Trees with root structures begin at the tip of your head and rise taller than the eye can see into the heavens. Nature is the hallowed church that provides all things.

The cinematic art of “Honey” brings the viewer into the environment, smelling, tasting, and feeling the dampness of the canopy as it shades the traveler from the glare of the sun and the pelt of the rain. Gentle, steadfast and full of gifts.

The film stars Bora Altaş who plays Yusuf, a boy around 6 years old who only reads and speaks to his father, Yakup, played by Erdal Beşikçioğlu. Yusuf does not speak to anyone else, even when he wants to read for his class at school. He stays apart from the others. He watches the children play at recess from a window above. He doesn’t speak to any of them.

Curiously, he wears a bell just like the bird that directs him on his path to school. This bird, possibly a scout, also accompanies his father deep into the forest to find wild honey.

Why does Yusuf only talk to his dad? Why not to his lovely mother? Why can he read to his father rather complicated words, but apparently lose his ability to read even the simplest of material in school?

What does the sequence at the fair, with all the traditional costumes and dances, represent – why include it? Was it part of a dream? What is the significance of the forest honey? Why do both the bird and Yusuf wear a bell?

The director-writer, Semih Kaplanoglu, has let it be known that some of the answers to questions about the film lie in the Biblical story of Joseph and Jacob (in Turkish, Yusuf and Yakup). This story, shared by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, gives another dimension of understanding and appreciation. But central to all aspects of the film is the metaphor of mother nature through which the origin of all is majestically inspired.

Kaplanoglu has also said this film of spiritual realism traces the origin of the soul. But other themes explore the significance of father-son relationships, mother-son relationships, the role of the community and the role of speech and impediment.

“Honey” is a gentle experience into the lush backwoods of the Black Sea region of eastern Turkey, close to Georgia. This forested area is rich with a beauty, grace and benevolence that both includes and transcends its human occupation. The loveliest thought is that in this luxurious manifestation of breathtaking magnificence, there can also be found comfort for the deepest of sorrows.

Selected by Turkey as its entry into the 2011 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film (but didn’t make final five cut), this beautiful film is a captivating treasure for the entire family to enjoy.


60th International Berlin Film Festival
Golden Bear for The Best Film
Ecumenical Jury Award

16th London Turkish Film Festival
Golden Wings Digital Distribution Award

Hamedan Children Films Festival
Golden Butterfly for Best Cinematography


Producer – Director – Screenwriter: Semih Kaplanoğlu
Cinematography: Barış Ösbiçer
Editing: Ayhan Ergürsel, S.Hande Güneri, Semih Kaplanoğlu
Sound: Matthias Haeb
Cast: Bora Altaş, Erdal Beşikçioğlu, Tülin Özen, Alev Uçarer
Genre: Spiritual Realism
Production Company- Kaplan Film Production
Co-producers: Johannes Rexin – Bettina Brokemper (Heimatfilm- Germany)
Country: Turkey
Language: Turkish with English subtitles
Runtime: 103 minutes
Release: Feb. 11, 2010 (2010-02-11) (Berlinale)

. . .

Follow Bev Questad on Twitter at

And don’t forget to “Like” It’s Just Movies on Facebook at

Comments are closed.