Sunday, January 21, 2007

Aus der Ferne by Thomas Arslan

Aus der Ferne (2006) From Far Away / 89 min. / Color / 35 mm / in German w English sub titles
Written and Directed by: Thomas Arslan ; Director of photography: Thomas Arslan ; Music: Martin Steyer ; Edited by: Bettina Blickwede
Production company: Pickpocket Filmproduktion (Berlin) ZDF/3sat; Producer Thomas Arslan, Inge Classen

"Aus der Ferne" is a personal travelogue, a documentary about a trip through Turkey. Thomas Arslan, who filmed the journey himself, undertook the trip in May/June 2005. The route takes him through Istanbul and Ankara to Gaziantep in the southeastern part of the country, from there further eastwards via Diyarbakir and Van to Dogubayazit near the Iranian border.

The film describes moments during the journey that differ from the usual motifs that inform the image of present-day Turkey – from impressions of day-to-day life in such Western cities as Istanbul and Ankara all the way to regions in the country’s easternmost territory that were locked in battle until recently. "Aus der Ferne" is not a journalistic reportage. The film is not trying to prove anything, but rather to observe. It is the personal look of the filmmaker at this country.

Premiere: 56. Int. Filmfestspiele Berlin 2006, Int. Forum des jungen Films

THOMAS ARSLAN TALKS ABOUT HIS FILM (excerpts from an interview with Michael Baute, on January 3, 2006 in Berlin):

At the time I was shooting the film, the public discussion about Turkey had become quite intense. And it still is. It became almost the major task of the film to avoid immediately landing into the trap associated with the current slogans about Turkey and the stereotypical imagery. Occident, Orient, the West, the East: I can’t associate anything real with these terms. The starting point for the film was to be able to get an impression at all, and not to fall in line with some theory or to illustrate something you thought you already knew. I wanted to keep my eyes open for simple, concrete things in everyday life in this country.

… Before starting, I made two research trips to Turkey. I decided on the route of the journey. We followed this route during the shoot, from west to east. In the major cities of the trip we stayed for a week, although we never filmed for the first day or two. I wanted to first settle in and have a look around. Afterwards, we would make a plan for the following days. This is how we moved along, towards the east.
… Besides myself the crew consisted of a soundman, a director’s assistant, and a driver. I am really happy we were able to shoot on film. I was afraid that if we shot video, I would have gotten lost in the pile of material we could have generated. It actually helped to have to deal with a relatively limited amount of material. Since it made every decision very important, whether to turn the camera on or not. … In the scenes I shot, I tried to influence the situation as little as possible.

… Istanbul was the first stop on the journey. It was clear to me that this was a film which would slowly develop itself, but at the same time I realized that with the first shots I would lay down the path. With the Istanbul sequence the film begins to feel its way forwards. I didn’t want to simply deduce something. The point was to arrive, to be open to discovery. Istanbul is an enormous city, we could have shown many things. The images I chose were a reaction to the typical pictures that exist about Istanbul. For example the tired, old metaphor of the city as a bridge. I tried to disregard images, which have been shown a thousand times, but still to make something from the city visible.

… In the end, with a travel film your stay is always too short, even when you try to take your time. In just a few days, you only get close to a limited number of people. Of course you try, but nevertheless only very few situations arise which allow this to happen. The gaze of the film is a gaze from the outside. The gaze of a traveller passing through. Not to lose sight of this point was important to give the film its form.

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