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Appearance of ontemporary Turkish Cinema in 25th International Istanbul Film Festival

Appearance of ontemporary Turkish Cinema in 25th International Istanbul Film Festival

It seems that Turkish Cinema have revived after the 1990’s.  Especially from the beginning of late 90’s young generation have had chance to debut with their films. In other words, every year in International Istanbul Film Festival we have chance to see films of a new comer and other directors who are at the beginning of their career appear with strengthen or more precisely refined film language.

The Turkish films competed in the 25th International Istanbul Film Festival has comprised of both the films which have already screened publicly and the films which have shown first at the Festival. Ice cream and I Scream/Dondurmam Kaymak by Yüksel Aksu and Time and Winds/5 Vakit by Reha Erdem were among the latter. Both films have met with the spectator who has been waiting them attentively.

Cinema is a Miracle/Sinema bir Mucizedir was of a master’s, Memduh Ün, who has been in Turkish Cinema almost from the beginning of Yeşilçam which was traditional main stream film industry, and disappeared after 1980’s economically. Ün’s last film which pays homage to cinema   was interpreted as a jubilee. Shuttered Souls/Beyza’nın Kadınları by Mustafa Altıoklar was rather a repetition of Hollywood thriller genre where as Whatever You Wish/Sen Ne Dilersen by Cem Başeskioğlu was an undeveloped film. After gaining experience in TV series Çağan Irmak was in competition with his second feature My Father and Son/Babam ve Oğlum. The film has amazingly hit the box office in Turkey very nearly competing with the most popular Hollywood films. Two Girls/İki Genç Kız was the film by Kutluğ Ataman who made award winning films. Who Killed the Shadows/Hacivat ve Karagöz Neden Öldürüldü by Ezel Akay was a brave approach to the subject of Turkish History. Time And Winds was the film which was outstanding with its compact narrative, aesthetic and authenticity among these national competition films and won the award of Fipresci.

Before a close look to Time and Winds, some other films are worth mentioning with their some points which would elude from a point of view.

Ice cream and I Scream has a corresponding side to My Father and Son by Çağan Irmak that both films target rather popularity with their language which is familiar to Turkish audience from Yeşilçam. However, both films also differ from that popularity with their well observed small town people who are reflected with their natural behaviours, gestures and cultural backgrounds. Additionally, the stories of the films contain political issues in terms of recent national history of Turkey in their subtext. With this point they might be separated from main stream films which enclose dominant ideology although they achieve to be close to it with temperate film language. Mainly, their common point maybe that trying not to represent those people in a stereotypical way but to be close and to understand their real life.

Aksu chooses to tell the story of ordinary people who live in a sea side touristy town and bases the subject matter on the impact of global marketing in local. The protagonist sells home made ice cream with genuine ingredients but he has to struggle against ready made brand of a chain and also to the new regulations imposed by EU. He brings the professional actors together with local people and truly reflects the people of sort in such towns.

My Father and Son with the experienced performers gained their popularity in television as well as its melodramatic language stand behind the commercial success of the film. On the other hand, the film has some references to 1980’s coup d’état and the politics changing in daily life besides the relationships in society afterwards. Irmak is now a director accepted by every kind of audience and some people who perceive allegiance to in the approach his subject matter. Aksu and Irmak both are laudable directors because of their concerns.

Kutluğ Ataman’s third film, Two Girls is other film which doesn’t approach its subject outwardly. The film touches on the conflicts of two girls with their parents. Although their backgrounds are different from each other they become very close friends. One is a black sheep of her family who lives out side of city centre, rather slum, other one seems to be well-off but her single mother gains her life being a mistress of a man. Ataman constructs the narration on this dissolution between characters. Where as it seems to be familiar subject, the film is distinguishable with the elaborated characters that are discernible in Istanbul’s reality.

Although there is no apparent common tendency between these three films we would find that in recent years new directors of Turkish cinema are more concerned with uncover the real, distinctive connections, either in contemporary life or in history of Turkey. In other words, their intention appears to question surface reality, to unearth simple life stories deriving from Turkey’s social structure. If Ice cream and I Scream depicts in some point an Aegean small town co-existing with Muslim and Anatolian culture, these signs can be traced after seeing Who Killed The Shadows by Ezel Akay. He interrogates the very beginning of this culture and exposes a multi-cultural atmosphere at the time. He think about how Ottoman Empire could have been established. He brings the indications together to re-build a highly possible interpretation of Turkish history. It can be examined not for its historical rightness rather how this culture has been formed, which points in official history have been missed, what the components would be. He constructs the narrative in humoristic way, telling through the eyes of ancestors of traditional comedy. The birth of two characters of shadow arts, Hacivat and Karagöz, with their contradictory voice against power are represented with juxtaposition to the birth of Ottoman Empire. The film exposes how all different colours of a culture can be formed or excluded under the power relations. What the weak point of the film is that the beginning part of the film can’t catch the audience in advance and it seems to be complicated.

Reha Erdem with his work of Times and Winds can be praised for his courage that in this fast pace of life and films surrounding us he creates a film in slow pace but coherent with the setting of subject matter. He overcomes this risk without loosing the attention of audience. He divides the plot in to 5 episodes accordingly the time period of Ezan which especially the people in a rural area adjust their life. While we watch the inner conflicts of three boys and a girl with their grown up community, time of Ezan goes backwards starting from the late night calling to the prayer. Erdem doesn’t apply heavily to the cause and effect narrative construction. Everything is presented us as it is. As how it is nature, as how appears during growing up; confused with conflicting emotions, guiltiness, revenge, jealousy and inequality in relationships. Well-designed plot with repetitions, contrasts, parallelism, filmic time and characters Times and Winds addresses the international audience with its universality drawing from very specific cultural material.

Sum up the contemporary Turkish cinema at a glance, not only in the festival but in general, directors have had opportunity to create their own films after subsidy of Cultural Ministry and Euroimage as well as other sources. While television series and TV commercials are the areas to gain experience for some of them, they influence the work of film art. Suffice it to say, in the current situation that there are different stances which can be grouped rather than commonalities. The films which are purely motivated or driven for commercial success should be put aside. One stance of the rest prefers to catch the public with popular language without loosing the side of socio-political criticism and other aims artistic completeness in the same critical perspective. For me, in their depth, there seems to be an affinity with searching for cultural and social specifiticity drawn from their own background, experience and awareness which provide for authenticity.

Ayla Kanbur/Turkey

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