Saudade – A Kemal Yildirim Film

Over the years I’ve had the honor to review Indy films from several different production companies.

Kemal Yildirim was one of the first producers to approach me. I remember wondering if I was up to the task of reviewing.

My first love is music and although I do watch a fair amount of stuff, I certainly am no film guru. But maybe that gives me an edge. I’m just an average guy when it comes to film and my response to it. No great, learned film school cred to boast of. So maybe I can speak for the common woman and man and not just Indy film buffs.

A few of the low-budget films I’ve considered in the past were, at first sight, pretty challenging. But I always wait before writing, trying to see things through the producer’s eye instead of simply reacting. From being flexible I’ve learned a lot and have come to appreciate how the mix of images and themes indirectly fit into my own life.

It’s a fine line, being an amateur, untutored reviewer like myself. You have to strike the balance. Give the film a positive spin, if possible, while not compromising your integrity.

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Alice (Holly-Rose Durham) and her father Wilhelm (Sean Botha) – Used with permission

Today, after watching the latest release from writer, director, and actor Kemal Yildirim, it’s easy to find words of praise.

I enjoyed Saudade, named after a word alluding to a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia. It’s one of the first films I’ve seen in a long time without clicking Pause. I do that a lot…

So what’s this film about?

Well, on the surface we have a troubled couple making out, slapping each other around kind of film. Essentially flashbacks of a stormy romance with fairly straightforward images of coffee grinding and cleansing (Lady Macbeth?). But the camerawork, pacing and strong performances suggest more.

Not wanting to give a spoiler I won’t go overboard on the details. I’ll just mention a certain ambiguity running right up till the end that kept me hanging in.

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Alice and Tris (Kemal Yildirim) – Used with permission

In one hazy shot, we don’t know if the attractive but distressed Alice is going to hang herself on a tree outside her window or if that is her dead mother dangling on a rope. We can’t tell if we’re looking into the future, an imagined future, or a grim memory. And what of the night scene toward the end where Alice walks outside and starts digging. Is that her own grave? Someone else’s?

A phone call in the closing scene could tie it all up. Make Saudade clear. But I was still trying to put things together after the credits.

Some might find this deliberate mystification lacking and others, satisfying. There is no definite epiphany; instead, we’re just left with lingering questions.

If we were to compare this short film to music, someone like Erik Satie might come to mind. The tight edits are reminiscent of the parsimony in Satie’s work. And the overall feel is atmospheric and somewhat ambiguous, again like Satie.

I’ve been reviewing Yildirim’s films for almost a decade, and Saudade is a definite step forward or perhaps a shift in direction. The film deals with memories, emotion and is infinitely subtler than the director’s earlier projects.

Saudade is an open-ended drama that will probably speak to more moviegoers than we realize.


Saudade was produced by Kemal Yildirim and Mol Smith. Before writing this I looked at, where one can find an excellent screenshot of the digging scene and more info.

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