Bir Başkadır (Ethos Netflix) review – a Turkish series like no other

In recent years, my home country has experienced a surge in Turkish soap operas. Turkish soap operas have accumulated a high level of viewership, leading them to being the most aired on some TV channels. In the afternoon, families usually watch one or two Turkish soap operas. The topics vary from impossible love stories, old traditions/customs that stop couples from being together, betrayal, a man being part of a criminal group, and a family tragedy shifting the story.  Don’t get me wrong—some of these soap operas can be really enjoyable, but after watching a few of them, I could start predicting what was going to happen—at least that is what I thought. But I was so wrong! My perception completely changed when I started watching Bir Başkadır (Ethos) on Netflix. This short Turkish series took me by surprise with its complex characters, mesmerizing cinematography, and beautiful soundtrack.

Bir Başkadır (Ethos) 2020

“A slow-burn, dialogue-heavy drama from Turkey, Ethos is nonetheless an excellent and artful series well-suited to Netflix.” — this is how entertainment site Ready Steady Cut summarizes the show. Through different characters from different backgrounds and with different outlooks in life, the story slowly unfolds and we get to know each of them and understand how their lives are connected. 
The story starts with Meryem going to psychologist Peri because she is experiencing some fainting episodes. Meryem comes from the village, she wears a hijab, is employed as a cleaner and lives with her brother, his wife, and their children. Peri is meticulously dressed, well-educated and seems to look down on Maryem for her beliefs. Every character in Ethos appears to represent a certain issue and the audience can easily resonate with more than one of them. Without trying to spoil how the lives of the characters intertwine with each other, I will just say that there are so many connections between them and it was very enjoyable to see these relationships unfold.

The acting is more than professional: it feels real. Some characters are clumsy, some scared, some authoritarian, or great believers. Everything they do feels genuine and as you get to know the characters one by one, you also slowly understand why they act the way they do and can’t help but sympathize. 
What makes this series even more beautiful is the stunning cinematography. Everything from the shots, colors, cuts, as well as the music selection, all together make Ethos a unique series.

Bir Başkadır (Ethos) 2020

The series only had one season, but as Ready Steady Cut writes “For as long as it lasts, Ethos stylishly and excellently accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do.”
I hardly ever rewatch a movie or a series, but Ethos was special and its story is worth reliving many more times.

Capernaum

You’ve probably heard of Capernaum. Nadine Labaki’s film was a huge success when it came out in 2018; it won many awards and got the public’s and critics’ attention. The production budget of Capernaum was $4 million, while the film grossed more than $68 million worldwide. It is the highest-grossing Arabic film and the highest-grossing Southwest Asian film of all time.

This Lebanese drama shows us the story of Zain, a 12-year-old boy living in the slums of Beirut with his family. The film focuses on Zain, his life, his anger, and his struggles taking care of a baby to whom he is not even related, as well as  everything he has to face until the last moment where we see him in court, suing his parents for neglect. 

Nadine Labaki brings a very unique story to the big screen, a story so raw and heartbreaking that no other but these child actors could portray the best. In an interview for The Guardian, the director revealed that her team found Zain Al Rafeea, who plays Zain, in a street casting. “He was a Syrian refugee, an angry child, but very wise. He didn’t go to school. He was very small because of malnutrition. He’s in Norway now with his family, and we’re making a documentary about that.” – said Labaki. The Capernaum director also said that in Lebanon, people are exposed to the sight of children suffering on a daily basis and that is where she got the idea to make this film: from asking the children she spoke to if they were happy to be alive, which most said no. One of them even told her: “I don’t know why I was born if no one is going to love me, if no one is going to kiss me before I go to sleep, if I’m going to be beaten up every day.” 

Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers writes that through the camera staying eye-level with Zain, we watch a boy take to the mean streets of Lebanon in desperation. He describes the movie as an emotional powerhouse and highlights that the sorrow inherent in this tale would be unbearable without the film’s flashes of humor and performances by a cast of nonprofessionals that are moving beyond measure.

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian’s film critic, writes that there is passion and compassion in Capernaum, it brings home what poverty and desperation mean, and conversely what love and humanity mean. Bradshaw describes the movie perfectly with one simple sentence: “Capernaum is not a cry from the heart – but an angry shout.”

Personally, I loved this film. It had a way of pulling you in: with a heartfelt story, genuine characters and amazing visuals. It is impressive how much emotion these child actors can induce. No wonder, Capernaum was nominated and won so many awards; stories like this are hard to come by in modern cinema, and there should be more because, as Labaki herself said, “Cinema can affect social change”.

Girls of the Sun

Girls of the Sun (original title: Les filles du soleil) is a fictional story based on real events. When creating this film, director Eva Husson was inspired by the bravery of female Yazidi fighters who dared to take on ISIS invaders in Iraqi Kurdistan.


Throughout the movie, we follow a Kurdish female battalion as they prepare to take back their town from extremists. The story is seen through a French journalist’s eyes, who becomes the guide and narrator into telling the stories of these women. 

The main character, Bahar, is played by Golshifteh Farahani. She was a lawyer before being taken hostage by ISIS, raped and tortured. Her husband was killed, and her son was taken away from her. Now, she leads a battalion of women who suffered the same fate as she did, and their aim is to take back her hometown. Singing “Women, Life, Liberty,” their unique advantage is the jihadists’ belief that any fighter killed by a woman will be denied entry into heaven. 

The French journalist who follows Bahar is called Mathilde and is played by Emmanuelle Bercot. She also lost her husband and hasn’t seen her daughter in a long time. This character wears an eyepatch and was inspired by American journalist Marie Colvin, who worked as a foreign affairs correspondent for the British newspaper The Sunday Times from 1985 until her death. She died while covering the siege of Homs in Syria.

Girls of the Sun has split the opinion of critics. Some think it was too dramatic (how can you make a war film not dramatic?); some complain the score was too much or even say that it exists in a cultural vacuum. 

Toby Woollaston, film reviewer for NZME regional media, writes that Girls of the Sun does seem to lose focus at times because it has too many stories to tell. Its style bounces between a taut gritty war tale and melodrama. Nonetheless, stresses Woollaston, Husson’s confident approach, if occasionally overbearing, built enough suspense and sympathy to get him swept up in the film’s cause.

Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw, on the other hand, describes Girls of the Sun as heartfelt, forthright, and muscular. He writes that the film halts with these women’s provisional victory, and while it may seem naïve, there is naivety in believing there is no plausible way of showing good triumphing. Girls of the Sun, according to Bradshaw, is partisan, and it wears its heart on its sleeve: a powerful, forceful story. 

After watching the film, I must say I was completely overwhelmed by it. I am happy I watched it before reading the reviews, some of which, in my opinion, were nitpicking the film. 

I have watched and reviewed many movies throughout my work, but this one felt very raw. The story makes you angry and makes you want to fight for justice for these women. In the end, Bahar tells Mathilde to tell the truth. And that is what she does. She describes what is happening to these women and how they turned their fear into a fight. That is what I believe Husson is trying to show with this piece, and I think she achieved what she wanted, despite the criticism she received.