Friday, July 19, 2024


THE STORY – For Lia, a world-weary former schoolteacher, the intersection of promises and real life events has put her squarely in a precarious position: she’s made a pact to fulfill her recently deceased sister’s last wish — to find her long lost daughter Tekla. Together with Tekla’s former neighbor, an out-of-luck young man called Achi, they navigate Istanbul together in search of her niece. But she soon meets Evrim, a lawyer fighting for trans rights, and becomes embraced by the local trans community.

THE CAST – Mzia Arabuli, Lucas Kankava & Deniz Dumanli

THE TEAM Levan Akin (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 105 Minutes

In 2019, director Levan Akin came to prominence among film lovers with his Cannes darling, “And Then We Danced.” The film follows a dancer as he trains for a spot in the National Georgian Ensemble. When a new dancer arrives, it sparks not only rivalry but romantic desire. One of the most breathtaking queer films in recent years, its release felt like an act of protest for a film set in the conservative confines of Georgia; it even sparked protests in its home country for its portrayal of a queer romance. Now, Akin moves from Georgia to Turkey in his latest film, “Crossing.”

Still a very queer story, “Crossing” feels like an act of protest once again as it aims to put forth a message of acceptance and understanding for the trans community in Istanbul, one that exists under heavy anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from the country’s government. This world is seen through the eyes of Lia (Mzia Arabuli), a retired school teacher. Some of the best scenes in Crossing feature her as she simply walks around the city. In these very tranquil moments of stunning visuals and a captivating soundtrack, we see Istanbul in all its complexity, from darkness to beauty. Through its protagonist, it aims to open the eyes of older generations to see the world differently.

Lia is on a journey to find her niece Tekla, the only family she has left, as a promise to her sister, who recently passed. As she investigates her last known location in Georgia’s seaside, she is told by neighbors to leave it be. You see, Tekla is a trans woman. There’s great prejudice surrounding trans people in Georgia and Turkey, especially because trans women often fall into prostitution. The film makes it clear that this isn’t a choice. It’s often the only way for them to make a living. Transphobia is everywhere, but it never manifests with violence in “Crossing.” However, there’s an irony presented: Georgian and Turkish languages are gender-neutral. So, if gender doesn’t matter in language, why does it matter otherwise?

At first, there seems to be only one person who wants to help Lia find Tekla. Achi (Lucas Kankava), a young man desperate to leave Georgia and his oppressive home life, offers to help Lia find Tekla in Istanbul. He can be a Turkish translator, although he’s not very good at it, but he also hopes to find his mother and find work. Lia reluctantly agrees, which sets off a road trip of sorts featuring an oddball pairing. Arabuli plays Lia very stoically, and she makes it seem like everything Achi does is an annoyance. His energy and constant blathering are a lot for a woman who appears quite solitary. Much of the entertainment and humor in the film comes from this generational gap, and much of the film’s heart comes from how their relationship evolves as the story progresses.

As Lia and Achi walk in Tekla’s footsteps, trying to find her, they meet various people along the way who help them on this exhausting, often emotional trek. Two vagabond children bring them to an area of the city that trans women frequent. It’s an eye-opening experience for Lia, as her stiff demeanor of disbelief at seeing this new lifestyle eventually relaxes when she is invited into the community and their homes. The biggest help they find comes from this community, especially through the character of Evrim (Deniz Dumanli). The film spends a lot of time with her in order to introduce the audience to this side of Istanbul and organizations like the Pink Life LGBTI+ Solidarity Association that offer support for trans people in sex work.

By getting to know the trans community, Lia begins to feel regret for how she and her sister treated Tekla. Ostracized and made to feel they have brought shame to their family, trans people find any means of escape, and Istanbul is described as a place many go to disappear. Lia feels she failed Tekla, and now, it may be impossible to find her. It’s quite powerful to see what this realization does to Lia. Her hardened exterior begins to break as she conveys to the audience what a painful search this is for her. There’s much inner conflict as she struggles to understand that Tekla’s life isn’t one people willingly choose, while also feeling like her treatment of Tekla led her here. Arabuli’s performance packs a punch. In one scene, her body collapses against a wall, and you feel a sense of heaviness and lost hope.

Through this journey, especially in the relationship she forms with Achi and Evrim, Lia gets a new perspective on life, and the vibrant Turkish culture brings something out in her that’s been hidden for a long time. There are beautiful scenes of her dancing, as a remembrance of youth comes flooding back, and she is reminded of her own desires out of life. That’s really what “Crossing” is about: People looking for a new, full life. We see that in Achi and Evrim, the newcomers deliver excellent performances to complement Arabuli.

“Crossing” pushes its characters forward to a new understanding of life to erase what divides us. It’s a heartfelt film about forgiveness and identity, but especially family. Each character is looking for family, whether by blood or not, and they all find it in different ways. In the end, we do find what we’re searching for.


THE GOOD - Another queer marvel from Levan Akin. A heartfelt exploration of identity and acceptance, highlighting the trans community in Istanbul. Mzia Arabuli delivers one of the year's best performances.

THE BAD - It starts to feel long after a while, but it's a very minimal gripe.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best International Feature Film


Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Sara Clements
Sara Clements
Writes at Exclaim, Daily Dead, Bloody Disgusting, The Mary Sue & Digital Spy. GALECA Member.

Related Articles

Stay Connected


Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Another queer marvel from Levan Akin. A heartfelt exploration of identity and acceptance, highlighting the trans community in Istanbul. Mzia Arabuli delivers one of the year's best performances.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>It starts to feel long after a while, but it's a very minimal gripe.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-international-feature/">Best International Feature Film</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"CROSSING"