The touching real-life tale of a Turkish sergeant who saves a small Korean girl becomes long, heart-tugging fiction in Ayla: The Daughter of War, directed by Can Ulkay. The story is well-known both in South Korea and in Turkey, and was told in the 2010 South Korean doc Kore Ayla, which inspired the present film. A documentary feeling still persists in Yigit Guralp’s screenplay, which struggles to stay focused while faithfully recounting a passel of real-life incidents.
Ismail Hacioglu headlines a professional Turkish cast as the patriotic, level-headed but warm-hearted young officer, with little Kim Seol (who made her bow as a toddler on South Korean TV) in the role of the adorable Ayla and a cameo by a distinguished Eric Roberts as Lt. Gen. John Breitling Coulter, the deputy commander of U.S. forces in Korea. Turkey proposed the film for the foreign-language Oscar, a calculated choice but one that didn’t make the shortlist amid many other films about children and war. Its next stop is the Palm Springs film festival, where it is likely to be a crowd-pleaser. (read the story)