Hey There! (2021)

Erdem’s new work may be borne out of filmmaking restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it finds pure comedy and pathos with an ingenious concept centering on a series of online interactions between naïve and conniving strangers.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,136

Dir. Reha Erdem
2021 | Turkey | Comedy | 82 mins | 1.85:1 | Turkish
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some sexual references

Cast: Serkan Keskin, Nihal Yalcin, Bülent Emin Yarar
Plot: While Istanbul is under lockdown, Felek and Kerim have their scheme set up: they plan to infiltrate the computers of people at home, pretend they’re the government, scare them with their “crimes,” and rip them off. But this is Istanbul, and people come in all types.
Awards: –
Distributor: MUBI

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

So what if there’s a pandemic going on?  Reha Erdem, one of Turkey’s under-the-radar directors, responds with Hey There!, a new work borne out of filmmaking restrictions caused by COVID-19. 

As such, the entire film takes place online over a series of ‘Zoom’-like conversations between strangers, sans a few scenes featuring the outside reality of Istanbul that Erdem includes as transition or ‘breather’ shots. 

Many of these jittery shots are aimed at apartments and windows, suggesting the many faceless Turkish residents who are cooped up in their homes.  In some of these, a mixture of naïve and conniving people are engaged in fiery, nonchalant or sensual conversations over the web. 

Erdem finds pure comedy and pathos with an ingenious concept: two men masquerading as government officials from the ‘4th Division’ conspire to make easy profits by accessing the computers of targeted folks, forcing them to confess to crimes that they may or may not have committed, and offering them the solution of erasing their records once they pay their ‘fine’. 

As scams continue to proliferate around the world, including here in Singapore which is shockingly prevalent (not a day goes by without myself encountering a scam call or text message on my phone), Hey There! is a timely reminder that there are unsavoury people out there taking advantage of human naivety. 

At only 80 minutes, Erdem’s minimalist film is tight and entertaining; we meet all kinds of people at their best and worst behaviours, wrestling or negotiating petty power dynamics over the private sphere of the webcam.  I think Erdem would take it as a compliment if I say that some might mistake his film to be a documentary.

Grade: B+


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