Tuesday, February 24, 2009



EN İYİ FİLM: Sonbahar (Yapımcı: F. Serkan ACAR)
EN İYİ YÖNETİM: Nuri Bilge CEYLAN (Üç Maymun)
EN İYİ MÜZİK: Demir DEMİRKAN (Devrim Arabaları)
EN İYİ BELGESEL: Devrimci Gençlik Köprüsü (Yönetmen: Bahriye KABADAYI)
EN İYİ KISA FİLM: Unus Mundus (Yönetmen: Senem TÜZEN)
EN İYİ YABANCI FİLM: Kan Dökülecek (There Will Be Blood)

Alper and Ceylan lead SİYAD awards

Alper and Ceylan lead SİYAD awards

Two much talked about Turkish films of last year, one by newcomer Özcan Alper and another by auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan, grabbed four awards each at Sunday’s annual Turkish Film Critics Association (SİYAD) Awards.
Alper’s “Sonbahar” (Autumn) won the best picture honor in the 41st SİYAD Awards, handed out Sunday evening at a gala ceremony at the Cemal Reşit Rey (CRR) Concert Hall in İstanbul’s Harbiye.
Writer-director Alper also won the best screenplay award for “Sonbahar,” which brought the best actor award to its leading actor, Onur Saylak, for his role as a political prisoner who returns to his hometown in the Black Sea region after being released on medical grounds 10 years after imprisonment. The film also earned the best cinematography award for Feza Çaldıran.

The four honors Ceylan’s internationally recognized “Üç Maymun” (Three Monkeys) collected at the SİYAD gala Sunday night included yet another best director prize -- after the Cannes film festival nod in 2008 -- for Ceylan and the best editing prize. Its leading actress, Hatice Aslan, earned the best actress award for her performance as the deceitful wife of the title character who goes to prison to cover for his boss, and Ahmet Rıfat Şungar won the best supporting actor prize for his portrayal of the couple’s son.

Among other SİYAD honors, handed out in 13 categories in total, the best supporting actress award went to Tülin Özen for her role in “Vicdan” (Conscience), directed by Erden Kıral; the best music award went to rocker Demir Demirkan for his soundtrack for documentary filmmaker Tolga Örnek’s debut fictional feature “Devrim Arabaları” (Devrim Automobiles); and the 2007 drama “There Will Be Blood” by Paul Thomas Anderson was named best foreign film.

24 February 2009, Tuesday

Will Yeşilçam apologize to Muslims?

Ekrem Dumanli / Todays Zaman
Will Yeşilçam apologize to Muslims?
Wednesday, 18 February 2009

In my previous article I had asked, "Will Hollywood apologize to Muslims?" and I expressed my views about cinema, beliefs, biases and stereotypes by drawing examples from Hollywood productions.
Actually, we don't have to go so far in order to ask this question. Who can say that the Muslim stereotyping in our own cinema industry is so true to reality that we should expect the cinema sectors in other countries to follow suit?

Before going any further, I would like to clarify what I mean by bias or stereotype: If the same cliché is insistently used to refer to the same group, then it certainly means that there is bias toward that group. This applies to every group or people, and it is a clear sign of discrimination and hate. If one group is always depicted with the same characterization of its members and these characters are always evil and if, as part of the same strategy, some people are always shown as good, then it is obvious that there is bias or some preconception at work. This is because no group can be collectively "good" or "evil."

The Turkish cinema sector has long pursued negative attitudes against religion and devout people and attempted to develop a negative stereotype of them. Until recently, almost all portrayals of clerical officials, kadıs (religious judges), hodcas and pilgrims have been negative. People who seem to be devout in appearance have been portrayed as secretly malicious. Is there no exception to these stereotypes? No, unfortunately. Moreover, this unrelenting attempt to create such stereotypes has never let up.

It is wrong to suggest that this can be explained by negative attitudes against religion on the part of scriptwriters or producers. Indeed, this attempt has been aggravated, in part, by official policies. The "fanatical cleric" stereotype is a recurring theme in all fictional works (novels, short stories, plays) published since the early years of the republic. Such characterizations of devout people (or other pandemic preconceptions about other groups) cannot be correctly diagnosed unless they are viewed from a political vantage point. It is for this reason that we can find various forms of this stereotype, from the single-party regime to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) era.

The negative portrayal of clerics and devout people that started after the establishment of the republic continued for some time and the nation perceived this portrayal as a "hatred of religion." There may be factors that justify this perception, but the point here is not about believing in or denying a certain religion. A new regime was established and, like every new regime, the Republic of Turkey thought that the previous era had to be defaced. Therefore, all values that belonged to the previous era were to be portrayed as evil while the values of the new regime were to be glorified. All people that represented the old regime were characterized in films as traitors, collaborators and liars. On the other hand, those who symbolized the new regime were promoted as idealistic, hardworking and self-sacrificing. The old regime was represented by fanatical religious people or superficial clerics, while the new regime was represented by teachers, physicians and engineers.

Ultimately it was religion and science that were pitted against each other. In an atmosphere where nothing is expressed openly, the row was going on between tradition and modernism. In the picture portrayed for the spectators were those who represented the return of the old regime (reactionary people) and those who fed on positivism but, at the same time, tried to cling to the nation through national values (progressive people). Later, the names and forms of these symbols changed, but the characterization remained the same. Advocates of innovation were always "progressive and intellectual" types, while proponents of tradition were always "reactionary and fanatical."

It seems that our cinema sector and democratic quest have made parallel progress. As the freedom of expression and belief has expanded, these characterizations were modified. Now let us look at the following main developments briefly and try to make sense of them according to eras: the single-party era, the introduction of the multiparty regime, the years of military coups, the rise of left-wing movements, the rise of nationalist movements and the rise of conservative movements. Now let us treat these main developments briefly and try to make sense of them according to eras.
The era of stage actors and the building of a new regime

Some of the striking films produced between 1922 and 1939, known as the era of stage actors in the history of Turkish cinema, should be viewed as an effort to contribute the nation building process that was in the works then. The dominant personality of this era was, without a doubt, Muhsin Ertuğrul. "Ateşten Gömlek," a film adapted from Halide Edip Adıvar's novel of the same title, is regarded as one of the first successful films on the War of Independence. "Bir Millet Uyanıyor," directed by Ertuğrul in 1923, serves as the unforgettable model for the subsequent wave of films about the war. The common theme of these films was the enthusiasm of building a new state. Two films, both directed by Ertuğrul, should be noted in particular, as they created the clerical official prototypes for subsequent films: "Aynaros Kadısı" and "Bir Kavuk Devrildi."

Another recurrent theme in the era of stage actors is the Bektaşi sheikh, seen first in "Nur Baba" (1922). This sheik is a lustful, ambitious and devious type and the Bektaşi lodges are places where wild parties are held. After Bektaşis raided the film set and several incidents broke out, the producers started to act with caution in their portrayals of Alevis and Bektaşis. Later, open references to Bektaşis were removed from the films. Instead, only sheiks and their lodges tended to be discussed. Nevertheless, there were still references to the struggle between the old and the new.
"Aynaros Kadısı," which was originally written as a play by Musahipzade in 1927 but was adapted for the screen by Ertuğrul in 1938, is the most striking example of the stereotyping of clerics and religious people. The film intentionally revolves around a kadı because this allows the director to offer his biased portrayal of a cleric and, at the same, denigrate the Ottoman legal system. It should be clear that this judge is deceitful and lustful and takes bribes, amongst other things. Despite some harsh criticism, Yeşilçam never found the courage to develop new perspectives. Ertuğrul maintained the same characterizations in his subsequent films. In "Bir Kavuk Devrildi," for example, you can find the same characters and themes.

These prototypes, which were invented with the motive of lending ideological support to the newly founded state, are understandable in the context of their time. But today the film sector must realize the realities behind them and engage in some self-criticism. While the clerical officials -- and devout people -- heartily supported the War of Independence and while the first Parliament's respect for religion is well known, the Turkish filmmaking sector insistently opted to denigrate and humiliate religion and devout people, which had bad consequences. The constant portrayal of clerics as evil and disgusting characters has led to the alienation of the nation from cinema.

For some reason, clerics were portrayed as opponents of the national struggle. Clearly this does not correspond to historical realities. As a matter of fact, while there were some clerics who were against the national liberation movement, one cannot deny the support provided by the majority. Yet one can never find a positive portrayal of them in film. I do not want to do injustice to the filmmaking sector, as these negative stereotyping attempts are not limited to cinema. All fictional works suffer from this defect. "New" is represented by teachers, while "old" is symbolized by clerics. This applies both to novels and plays.

The unchanging cliché of the transition era: religion and religious people

The eruption of World War II had negative effects both on world cinema in general and the Turkish filmmaking sector in particular. At the end of this phase, known as the transition era, stage actors left the scene to directors. But the influence of stage actors was still visible in the films of this era. In 1948, the sector became financially supported by the state following a series of legal measures and this ushered in a diversification of the themes of the films. In 1949 the landmark film of negatively stereotyping clerics was produced: "Vurun Kahpeye." Directed by Lütfü Ö. Akad, "Vurun Kahpeye" pits the idealistic and enlightened teacher Aliye and the devious, devout cleric Hacı Fettah against each other. The most striking scene in the film is the lynching of Aliye by the "pro-sultan Hacı Fettah and the ignorant mob led by him." The film was adapted from Halide Edip Adıvar's novel of the same title. Her novel has been adapted to cinema three times and each time it has created major reactions. In its latest adaptation, Halif Refiğ adopted a delicate and cautious approach. Nevertheless, its damage in terms of stereotyping is great.

Interestingly, the Turkish cinema sector tends to portray the clerics as devious, ambitious, unreliable or lustful types while it refrains from making similar negative generalizations about other professions. Teachers are always respected, police officers are characterized as dignified people, soldiers are shown as symbols of national dignity and judges are portrayed as models of justice. Is it possible for any profession to include nothing but good people? Of course not. However, this is a consequence of the nation-building process. The fact that our stereotypes do not correspond to the stereotypes of world cinema is clear proof of the influence of political and social engineering projects on the Turkish cinema sector. In a later article, we will continue to discuss how internal dynamics have affected the cinema sector from the point of view of their perception of religion and devout people.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Should I Really Do It?

Bunu Gerçekten Yapmalı Mıyım? Should I Really Do It? 86", 35mmColor, German with English subtitles

Feature film by Ismail Necmi [1], starring Petra Woschniak. This real-life-feature follows the extraordinary life of Petra, a German woman living in Istanbul, in an ironic inversion of the Turkish migrant to Germany. Her life will take such strange turns you’ll think she’s following a script. But really, we’re watching a real life protagonist evolve in the face of life. For, ultimately, nothing is ever as surprising as life. Except, perhaps, fiction… During her sessions with Herold, a masked therapist, her life will unfold before our eyes and we will learn about everything: Istanbul, Germany, family, friends, drugs and death. Should I Really Do It? plays with these concepts of real life and fiction, documentary and drama. Could life ever be more interesting than fiction?The film's soundtrack was composed by Serkan Alkan, with additional tracks composed by Turkish-Techno musician, Mercan Dede.

The film was selected for international competition in both the 2008 Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival and the 2008 !F Istanbul International Film Festival.[3][1] In 2007, it was also recognized with selection in the 'Mediterranean Films Crossing Borders' programme of the Berlin International Film Festival and the 'European Films Crossing Borders' programme of the Cannes Film Festival.

[1] Ismail Necmi works as an independent photographer and filmmaker. Born in Turkey in 1970, he graduated from Istanbul University / Law Faculty. From 1988 to 1992, he worked on a number of movies, short movies, TV series and photo shoots. From 1993 to 2004, he worked as an editor and video graphic designer for ARD German TV Studio in Istanbul. As a photographer, he worked on his own projects: “Transformation” (2001), a solo Black & White photography exhibition in Dulcinea Istanbul, and “The image is YOU!”, a Black & White Interactive Photography Project launched in 2002, among others. Between 2006 and 2007, he worked as an instructor in Visual Communication Design and Photography and Video at Istanbul Bilgi University. In 2005, he started his own production company, “IN Works Istanbul”. In February 2008, he finished his début real-life-feature film, Should I really do it? which he produced and directed.

Contact: In Works Istanbul İsmail Necmi Hayriye Cad. 5/7, 34433 Galatasaray İstanbul, Turkey Tel: +90 212 292 5538 Fax: +90 212 292 5539 E-mail: info@ismailnecmi.com

The 11th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

The 11th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival – Images of the 21st Century will take place from the 13th to the 22nd of March 2009.

The TDF is carried out every March in Thessaloniki since its inception in 1999 and under the umbrella of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival organization. Through its tributes and retrospectives, the TDF focuses on filmmakers with unique cinematic voices, internationally renowned for their contribution to the documentary genre. Dimitri Eipides, the Artistic Director of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival – Images of the 21st Century, has always believed that “recording reality is the most important and most contemporary element of civilization.”

CONTACTS THESSALONIKI DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL - IMAGES OF THE 21st CENTURY Address: 9 Αlexandras Avenue, GR-11473 Athens, Greece Tel: (+30 210) 87 06 000 Fax: (+30 210) 64 48 143 email: documentary@filmfestival.gr

SIYAD 2008 Awards Nominations

SİYAD - Sinema Yazarları Derneği / Turkish Film Critics Association announced 2008 Awards Nominations

Best Film
* ARA (Yapımcılar: Ümit ÜNAL, Mustafa USLU)* RIZA (Yapımcılar: Tayfun PİRSELİMOĞLU, İlknur AKANLAR)* SONBAHAR (Yapımcı: F. Serkan ACAR)* TATİL KITABI (Yapımcılar: Yamaç OKUR, Nadir ÖPERLİ)* ÜÇ MAYMUN (Yapımcı: Zeynep ÖZBATUR)

Best Direction
* Özcan ALPER (Sonbahar)* Nuri Bilge CEYLAN (Üç Maymun)* Kazım ÖZ (Fırtına)* Tayfun PİRSELİMOĞLU (Rıza)* Ümit ÜNAL (Ara)

Best Female Performance
* Demet AKBAĞ (O... Çocukları)* Hatice ASLAN (Üç Maymun)* Ayça DAMGACI (Gitmek)* Selen UÇER (Ara)* Nurgül YEŞİLÇAY (Vicdan)

Best male Performance
* Erdem AKAKÇE (Ara)* Rıza AKIN (Rıza)* Yavuz BİNGÖL (Üç Maymun)* Onur SAYLAK (Sonbahar)* Cem YILMAZ (A.R.O.G: Bir Yontmataş Filmi)

Best Female Performance in a Supporting Role
* Nurcan EREN (Rıza)* Vahide GÖRDÜM (Devrim Arabaları)* Megi KOBALADZE (Sonbahar)* Yıldız KÜLTÜR (Issız Adam)* Tülin ÖZEN (Vicdan)

Best Male Performance in a Supporting Role
* Taner BİRSEL (Tatil Kitabı)* Serkan KESKİN (Sonbahar)* Volga SORGU (Gitmek)* Ahmet Rıfat ŞUNGAR (Üç Maymun)* Onur ÜNSAL (Devrim Arabaları)

Best original Screenplay
* Özcan ALPER (Sonbahar)* Ebru CEYLAN, Ercan KESAL, Nuri Bilge CEYLAN (Üç Maymun)* Tayfun PİRSELİMOĞLU (Rıza)* İnan TEMELKURAN (Made in Europe)* Ümit ÜNAL (Ara)

Best Cinematography
* Arnau Valls COLOMER (Tatil Kitabı)* Feza ÇALDIRAN (Sonbahar)* Colin MOUNIER (Rıza)* Gökhan TİRYAKİ (Üç Maymun)* Soykut TURAN (A.R.O.G: Bir Yontmataş Filmi)

Best Musical Score
* Goran BREGOVIC (Mustafa)* Mazlum ÇİMEN (Son Cellat)* Demir DEMİRKAN (Devrim Arabaları)* Ayşenur KOLİVAR, Yuri YEDCANKO, Sumru AĞIRYÜRÜYEN, Onok BOZKURT (Sonbahar)* Evanthia REBOUTSIKA (Ulak)

Best Editing
* Erhan ACAR JR. (A.R.O.G: Bir Yontmataş Filmi)* Thomas BALKENHOL (Sonbahar)* Ayhan ERGÜRSEL, Bora GÖKŞİNGÖL, Nuri Bilge CEYLAN (Üç Maymun)* Çiçek KAHRAMAN (Ara)* İnan TEMELKURAN (Made in Europe)

Best Art Direction
* Ebru CEYLAN (Üç Maymun)* Veli KAHRAMAN (Devrim Arabaları)* Mustafa Ziya ÜLKENCİLER (Ulak)* Hakan YARKIN (A.R.O.G: Bir Yontmataş Filmi)* Natali YERES (Rıza)

Best Documentary Film
* Bu Ne Güzel Demokrasi! (Yönetmenler: Belmin SÖYLEMEZ, Berke BAŞ, Haşmet TOPALOĞLU, Somnur VARDAR)* Devrimci Gençlik Köprüsü (Yönetmen: Bahriye KABADAYI)* Son Kumsal (Yönetmen: Rüya Arzu KÖKSAL)* 3 Saat (Yönetmen: Can CANDAN)* Volga Volga (Yönetmen: Ayşegül TAŞKENT)

Best Short Film
* Ayak Altında (Yönetmen: M. Cem ÖZTÜFEKÇİ)* Gemeinschaft (Yönetmen: Özlem AKIN)* Pembe İnek (Yönetmen: Onur GÜRSOY)* Süt ve Çikolata (Yönetmen: Senem TÜZEN)* Unus Mundus (Yönetmen: Senem TÜZEN)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Wrong Rosary|Uzak İhtimal Images

Review | Wrong Rosary

Wrong Rosary| Uzak ihtimal (Turkey)

A Hokusfokus Film production. Produced by Tulin Cetinkol Soyarslan, Ismail Kilicarslan, Tarik Tufan, Mahmut Fazil Coskun.
Directed by Mahmut Fazil Coskun. Screenplay, Tarik Tufan, Gorkem Yeltan.

With: Nadir Saribacak, Gorkem Yeltan, Ersan Uysal.

The plot sounds like something out of a Harold Robbins novel, but Mahmut Fazil Coskun carefully eliminates any hint of melodrama with the spare, measured, observational visuals of his debut, "Wrong Rosary." Set in an Istanbul of windy streets, antiquarian bookstores and seafront cafes, pic underplays all the elements of the impossible love between a young muezzin and a sheltered woman raised to be a nun, making the city itself a character through which the protags communicate. More incisive personalities would increase sympathies; nevertheless, fests will genuflect, especially after the pic's Tiger win at Rotterdam.

Fresh from Ankara, Musa (Nadir Saribacak) arrives in the Galata section of Istanbul to take up his first job as a muezzin, leading the calls to prayer at a small mosque. Shy and inexperienced but reasonably educated, he moves into an apartment that comes with the job, next door to an elderly, bedridden woman looked after by painfully retiring caretaker Clara (Gorkem Yeltan). Musa timidly watches the excessively reserved Clara, who barely looks at him, let alone speaks.

He follows her to the local church, where he encounters Yakup (Ersan Uysal), an old book dealer with his own, undefined interest in Clara. The two men coincidentally strike up a conversation (pic has a few too many coincidences), and Yakup hires Musa part-time to help him with Ottoman-era tomes. Gradually, Clara's confidence is won, and the hesitant glances she and Musa exchange reveal an emotion stronger than mere friendship.

Pic's title comes from an early, amusing scene: Clara drops her rosary, Musa picks it up, but before returning it, he goes to work at the mosque. During services, his hands automatically go to his prayer beads; rather than fingering his own, he mistakenly uses the "wrong" rosary. Only when he drops it off in her collection plate at church does she finally speak. The script takes this near-pathological mousiness too far, and the pic's greatest flaw is the unmodulated shyness exhibited by Clara and, to a lesser degree, Musa.

What saves it all is Coskun's subtle use of Galata's interiors and exteriors, providing the characters with quiet conduits and safe havens from the outside world. Little, however, is made of the religious institutions, and Musa's job as muezzin is all but forgotten halfway through. Perfs match the tamped-down quality of the visuals, and if Yeltan too often looks like a fawn caught in the headlights, presumably that's exactly how she's been directed to behave.

Refik Cakar's camerawork favors an observational, almost voyeuristic distance, with frequent shots from below that amplify the sense of hesitation and restraint. Colors, too, are muted, diffused like the emotions to guarantee no meller excess.

Camera (color), Refik Cakar; editor, Cicek Kahraman; music, Rahman Altin; production designer, Selda Cicek; costume designer, Hale Issever; sound (Dolby Digital), Duygu Celikkol, Murat Celikkol, Nurkut Ozdemir; assistant director, Ayhan Ozen; casting, Harika Uygur, Family Ajans. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (competing), Jan. 29, 2009. Running time: 90 MIN.