Gitta Gsell’s Beyto is more admirable for what it attempts to explore about life as a gay Turkish immigrant in Switzerland than how successful it is at achieving this. Discover more films on the LGBTQ film festival circuit here.
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Gitta Gsell’s Beyto, based on the novel Hochzeitsflug by Yusuf Yesilöz, is more admirable for what it attempts to explore than how successful it is at achieving this. With clunky dialogue, a romantic relationship that’s too vague to root for as true love, and a central character who can be frustratingly dense, it’s not without problems. But the film’s exploration of the complexities of being a gay immigrant from a homophobic culture feels new and thoughtful, and the challenges the film raises make its flaws worth enduring.
Beyto (Burak Ates) is a young man in early adulthood whose family are Turkish immigrants living in Switzerland. He’s a talented swimmer and a great student, but his family’s stringent views about homosexuality means he has to keep a whole portion of his life and his identity secret. Just as Beyto is discovering first love with his coach, Mike (Dimitri Stapfer), his parents get word from friends who spotted him at Gay Pride Parade and become desperate to shut down any rumours that he’s gay. Their solution is ill-advised but desperate: arrange a marriage for him with a young woman from their old village, Narin (Beren Tuna), and only tell him about it once he’s arrived in Turkey. When he does, the entire town knows the wedding is happening, and it’s essentially too late for him to back out without causing irreparable damage to the young woman’s life and reputation.
As a swimmer, Beyto is muscular and broad, which makes us aware at all times that he could physically dominate his parents if he wanted to. But emotionally, they have all the power. When his father threatens to burn Beyto’s passport if he doesn’t agree to the marriage, we can see that Beyto — an adult and a physically fit one — could easily overpower his father. But emotionally, he’s lost, and only more so when he realises it’s not just his own position within his community that’s at stake, but his fiance’s, who stands to lose much more than he does.
Gsell smartly navigates the complexity of Beyto’s predicament, introducing us to the kind and sweet Narin who has even less control over her life than Beyto, which complicates the narrative. When Beyto returns home, Mike is uncomfortable with the marriage and jealous, and Narin is alone in a foreign country where she doesn’t speak the language. Gsell and Ates help us understand how Beyto feels like the rug is being pulled out from under him because he’s suddenly agreed to have this woman attached to him for life — sharing a bedroom and more. But his surprise at how much his life has changed, at worst, strains believability, and at best, reveals Beyto’s own selfishness.
Once Beyto has agreed to the wedding, his neglect of Narin reads as hugely immature, especially because he refuses to treat her as a teammate who can help him solve problems for both of them; he wants to pretend like the wedding didn’t happen. But perhaps more frustrating is his parents’ surprise that arranging a marriage between a gay man and an unsuspecting woman, neither of whom had any real say in the matter, could lead to both young people’s unhappiness. After some discouragingly immature behaviour from everyone involved, the film finally lands on a hopeful solution.
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