Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Well-known Turkish screen actors and actresses salute residents of Antalya in 2003 during the traditional parade that is held every year at the start of the Altın Portakal Film Festival. In light of the ongoing global economic crisis, concern has been increasing over the future of film festivals.
After the Kars Municipality announced that its annual Festival on Wheels would “not be held for sometime” due to financial hurdles, the Culture and Tourism Ministry allocated only half the amount of last year's budget to this year's Altın Koza International Film Festival in Adana, which wrapped up last weekend. Now all eyes are turned to another southern city, Antalya, wondering whether Turkey's longest-running film festival, the Altın Portakal (Golden Orange), will also feel the impact of the global crisis.
After parting ways with the İstanbul-based Turkish Foundation for Cinema and Audiovisual Culture (TÜRSAK), the Antalya Foundation for Culture and Arts (AKSAV) will organize this year's Altın Portakal festival on its own for the first time. Film critic Vecdi Sayar, the newly appointed director of the festival, spoke with Today's Zaman about the current and future plans for Altın Portakal.
As someone who has had different roles in many film festivals, what kinds of changes do you plan to make to Altın Portakal?
Taking into account the Altın Portakal Film Festival's 46-year-old legacy, we want the festival's national competition to have more of a priority. We will keep the international competition [held on the sidelines of Altın Portakal as a separate film festival known as the International Eurasia Film Festival, launched in 2005], but redevelop its structure. We plan to release more details in the near future, but I can tell you now that Eurasia will not be the main theme of the international competition. I plan to keep it as a non-competitive program within the main festival. The [Eurasia] Film Market is also not on our agenda right now. Instead of a virtual film market, we plan on focusing more on operational activities.
When new Antalya Mayor Mustafa Akaydın ascended to the post following the local elections, he hinted that the festival might shrink but that it would be open to the public. What efforts are being made to open the festival to the public?
I think that announcement hinted not at contraction but at growth. Real growth should be about quality not quantity. Last year, 1,500 guests were invited. I think that was an overextension and certainly believe a reduction in terms of numbers is necessary. In recent years, I have been hearing complaints that the festival has moved away from the people, that attendees are unable to enter theaters because there are too many guests and that opportunities for attendees to meet artists were not enough. I wouldn't want to say anything definite without obtaining data, but we have plans to screen films in many theaters across the city to enable a wide segment of society to have access to the festival and to increase the number of activities that will allow people to meet artists.
What kind of impact will separating from TÜRSAK, of which you were a founding member, have on the festival? There are concerns that the bar will be lowered.
I don't think the bar was raised too high. But certainly, we will preserve the beneficial aspects TÜRSAK has brought to the festival and the universal standards required for an international film festival. It is clear that neither the mayor nor I will choose the easy way or bring the issue down to populism. The Antalya Altın Portakal festival deserves to be among the most well-regarded and serious film festivals in the world.
How will disagreement between the local administration and the government affect the festival's gains in coming years?
There should not be a disagreement. The Antalya film festival is the oldest film festival in our country. It plays an important role in promoting our country, as it does in promoting Turkish cinema. A stable routine is necessary in order to improve its prestige and regard on the international level, and this requires serious resources. In addition to the Antalya Municipality, the Culture and Tourism Ministry and the Prime Ministry Promotion Fund must continuously extend their support. We must reach a level of maturity so that our festivals, like those in other parts of the world, will not be affected by political changes.
What will the future of the International Eurasia Film Festival be? Will we continue to see world-renowned figures in Antalya?
Instead of having two film festivals simultaneously, Altın Portakal [which was solely a national film festival since its inception] will now have national and international competition and non-competitive programs. And certainly, we will invite outstanding actors and film directors from around the world. Paying Hollywood stars to come to the festival is not the only way to preserve the festival's international recognition.
What plans or ideas do you have about the controversial selection of jury members in the festival?
We are still deliberating on this. Let me say, though, that we will have an approach that complies with universal criteria used in many parts of the world.
Is the schedule of the festival clear?
We plan on keeping the previously scheduled dates, between Oct. 1 and 8. Our mayor will make the official announcement about the date and main aspects of the program at a later date.
20 June 2009, Saturday | ALİ KOCA İSTANBUL from Today's Zaman
Sunday, June 14, 2009
He was born in İstanbul in 1959.
He studied at the Department of Chemistry in İstanbul Technical University; however, he had to leave the school after two years because of the political chaos of that period.
In 1978, he started to study at the Department of Electrical Engineering in Bosphorus University. After graduating from Bosphorus University, he studied cinema in Mimar Sinan University for two years.
He started his cinema career as a director with his short movie, Koza (Cocoon), which was also screened at the competition of Cannes Film Festival in 1995.
He shot his first feature film, Kasaba (The Small Town), which was a story being composed of three episodes composed of pastoral and autobiographic stories. Kasaba was shown in many international festivals including Berlin Film Festival. His second feature film dated 1999, Mayıs Sıkıntısı (Clouds of May), was selected to the competition in Berlin Film Festival.
With his third film ”Uzak” (Distant) he won the Grand Prix and Best actor Award at 2003 Cannes Film Festival. Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s next film was “İklimler” (Climates) which won the FIPRESCI Prize in Cannes Film Festival in 2006.
Competing at the 61st Cannes Film Festival with his 2008 film ÜÇ MAYMUN (Three Monkeys), Nuri Bilge won the Best Director award. ÜÇ MAYMUN later went on to become the first Turkish film to make the Oscar shortlist in the Academy Awards Foreign Language Film category.
In 2009, he returned to Cannes, this time as a member of the main competition jury.
Filmleri / Filmography
2008 Üç Maymun
1999 Mayıs Sıkıntısı
1995 Koza (Kısa film)
He was born in Yukarı Şamlı Willage of Denizli in 1953. After he had garduated from Denizli Commerce High School, he studied at Commerce Academy of the Marmara University. He was selected as the first in the Cinema, Pictorial and TV Contest which was organized by The Tercuman Newspaper.
He started to act in the film of “Hain” in 1976. He had a place in more than 50 cinema film and in more than 10 tv films. He played in many tv series in 90s. His last film he had played was “Büyük Şeytan Üçgeni” was directed by Yücel Ünlü. The films in which he played and some important films in Turkish Cinema History.
Sultan (1978) , Tatlı Nigar (1978), Minik Serçe (1979), Derya Gülü (1979), Toprağın Teri (1981), Bir Zamanlar Kardeştiler (1983), Kahreden Kurşun (1983), Öç (1984), Kabadayı (1986), Sahibini Arayan Madalya (1989), Kiralık Kadın (2000)...
Bulut Aras is married and he has a son named Onur Destan. He is the 17th Founder member of Cinema Players Assosication (SODER) and he is still member of Comtemporary Cinema Players Assosication(CASOD).
Füruzan won the 1972 Sait Faik Story Prize for her very first work, Parasız Yatılı. She is a self-taught author; after elementary school she had no formal education. Her original and attractive use of the stream-of-conciousness technique and her spectrum of striking characters have made her a remarkable name among the contemporary Turkish short story writers. The plight of helpless women, middle-class families fallen on hard times, refugees victimized because of their “otherness” are her major themes. Füruzan is noted for her deep exploration of characters and a narrative style based on telling detail. In 1975 she was invited to Berlin under the DAAD program and remained there for a year interviewing workers and artists. Her work “Benim Sinemalarım-My Cinemas” was screened during Cannes International Film Festival and awarded at Iranian Fecr Festival and Tokyo Film Festival in 1991. Her work has been translated into several foreign languages. She is the honorary author of Istanbul TUYAP Book Fair 2008.
Story: Parasız Yatılı (1971), Kuşatma (1972), Benim Sinemalarım (1973), Gül Mevsimidir (uzun öykü, 1973), Gecenin Öteki Yüzü (1982), Sevda Dolu Bir Yaz (1999).
Novel: Kırk Yedi’liler (1974), Berlin’in Nar Çiçeği (1988).
Interview: Yeni Konuklar (1977).
Travel book: Evsahipleri (1981), Balkan Yolcusu (1994).
Play: Redife’ye Güzelleme (1981), Kış Gelmeden (1997).
Childrens book: Die Kinder der Türkei (1979, Türkiye Çocukları).
Poetry: Lodoslar Kenti (1991).
Yaşantı: Füruzan Diye Bir Öykü (Hazırlayan: Faruk Şüyün, 2008).
He was born in the willage of Sevdilli Elbistan/Kahramanmaraş in 1958. He graduated from Selahattin Karakaşlı Primary School in Anadolu Hisarı Kavacık.
He entered Violin Department of State Consarvatuary 4 years later, he entered the Ballet Department of the same school. He graduated in 1981 and started to work as a Ballet in Istanbul Satete Ballet and Opera Hause.
He started his musical works when he was child by playing Baglama (A local Instrument), he went on his musical works by selecting Turkus from Anatolia. Later he started to compose his own songs at the very beginning of 80s. He started to compose film musics with the support of İhsan Yüce, but he got his biggest support from Onat Kutlar.
“Aysarın Zilleri” (The Bells of Aysar) was his 1st work. Then He composed "Mem u Zin" much more willingly. In turns, “Soğuk Geceler" (Cold Nihgts), "Hollywood Kaçakları", "Işıklar Sönmesin", "Nazım Hikmet Ziyaretçin Var, "Gönlümdeki Köşk Olmasa”, "Büyük Adam Küçük Aşk”, "Oyun", "Son Cellat”, "Umut" .He composed for films, tv series and documentaries. He composed the theatre musics, "Yunus Emre" (1989 Diyarbakır State Theatre), "Ferhat ve Şirin" (İstanbul City Theatre).
He got 3 Golden Boll, 4 Golden Orange,1 Ankara Hititís Sun Best Film Music Prize, 1 Orhan Murat Arıburnu Prize, 1 Swiss Prize and he got Best Film Music Prize in 2008 Montpellier/France Film Festival. He has totally 14 Best Film Music Awards, he has gotten every Best Film Music Award which he has been nominated.
He played in "Hababam Sınıfı Güle Güle"(Bye Bye Hababam Classroom), "Hoşçakal Yarın"(Good bye Tomorrow), "Gönlümdeki Köşk Olmasa"(What if I didnít have that Pavilion in my hearth), "Anlat İstanbul"(Tell me, Istanbul), "Son Cellat"(The Last Hangman), "Umut"(The Hope) films.
After having graduated from drama school in İstanbul, Meltem Cumbul began her career in London at the age of 21. On her return from Londan, she hosted 150 episodes of the game show Card Sharks during the years 1993-94. Her main passion being drama, in the same years she acted as the Lead actress in Marguerite Duras’ play “Lyrics of Farewell”. She then both produced and directed Arnold Wesker’s “Four Seasons’’. Because she thought that acting in movies is different from Theatre, she did not prefer leading roles and she acted as supporting actress in her first full-lengt films, Sinan Çetin’s ‘’Mr.E’’ and Ümit Elçi’s “Insect’’.
In the same year, the fukk-length film Barış Pirhasan’s “Isaac’s Story’’ hosted her as supporting actress. In 1997, she was the leading actress in the musical “Tell, Scheherazade, Tell” and Umut Turagay’s full-lenght film “Mixed Pizza’’, in which she played a ruthless female cutthroat. The year 1999 saw her as the leading actress of Sinan Çetin’s “Propaganda’’ in which she wrote her own lines and in the Iranian director Houchang Allahyari’s film “Geboren in Absurditan”, where she acted in german despite not speaking the language. She also began acting in the TV serial drama “Yılan Hikayesi” which to this date holds the title of having the highest ratings in the history of Turkish television.
She was leading actress in Yalçın Yelence’s film “The Trial”. In 2001, she sportted the experimental modern dans troupe MDT in their performance “Travelogue” and was the starring actress in the film “Maruf” by Serdar Akar. She won the Golden Orange Prize for Best Leading Actress in the International Antalya Film Festival, with her rendition of a fictional female character depicting the tumultous times of the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid in Ziya Öztan’s “Abdülhamit Düşerken”. In 2003, she was the guest starring actress in Fatih Akın’s “Gegen Die Wand” which won the Golden Bear Prize for Best Film in Berlinale. She was the leading actress in “The Taming of the Shrew” which had become the most successful Shakespeare rendition that is put on stage by İstanbul Municipality Theatres in Turkey in 2004. Recently she played in “Comedy of Miracles”, a musical she takes part in as the leading actress again in “Lovelorn” where she shares the head roles with actor Şener Şen.
Özcan Alper was born in Hopa, Artvin in 1975. After he had studied in Physic Departmant of Science Faculty in Istanbul University between 1992-1996 years, he continued his education in Science History Department in Faculty of Letters in Istanbul University. Then, he was graduated in 2003. He joined MKM cinema workshop between 1996 - 1999 years and cinema seminary of Nazım Culture Center and workshop between 1999-2001. He took a directory prize with documentary film with 25 minutes documentary which was “Rapsody and Melancoly in Tokai City” in 2005 in Japan. He took Jury Special Prize in International Friendship Film Festival (2005). In 2004, he was awarded with continuity writer and directory prizes with 60 minutes documentary film which was called “Voyage In Time With a Scientist”. In 2001, he was awarded with directory and writer awards with a 25 minutes short film that was called “MOMI/Grand Mother” and he took special sight prize from International Yerevan Short Film Festival in 2002. His first feature film he directed, SONBAHAR, was awarded 3 three times including The Best Film in 15th International Golden Boll Film and The Film also got The Art & Essay Cicae Prize in 61st Locarno Film Festival, 7 prize including The Best Film in 20th Ankara International Film Festival, 4 prize including The Best Film in SIYAD Awards, The Best First Film Prize in Yeşilçam Awards, Silver Prometus Prize in Tiflis Film Festival, Netpac Jury Prize in International Eurasia Film Festival. He also got many prizes in International and national film festivals.
Filmleri / Filmography:
2005 Tokai City’de Rapsodi ve Melankoli (Belgesel / Documentary)
2004 Bir Bilim Adamıyla Zaman Enlem’inde Yolculuk (Belgesel / Documentary)
2001 MOMİ / Büyükanne (Kısa Film/Short Film)
She was born in İstanbul in 1978. She studied at Uskudar Cumhuriyet High School and Theatre Department of Istanbul Universty State Consarvatory. She took acting and dancing courses.
She got her first role in the play named APACIK in Theatre Fora in 2001. She had roles in Play It Again Sam (2001), Taraf Tutmak (2003), Kiralık Oyun 2005), Yan Etkili Konuşmalar (2007).
She got Best Actres Prize in the category of Comedy with her role in Kiralık Oyun in the Afife Theatre Awards and Sadri Alışık Theatre Awards.
She played in TV Films named Havada Bulut (2003), Kerem, Bir Filiz Vardı. She was hostess in tv programs named Koca Kafalar and Güldür Bakalım, she also played in many tv series and advertisement.
She started her movie career with the film “Sır Çocukları” the director of which was Ümit Cin Güven in 2002. She got the Best Promising Actress Awards with this film in National Competition Part of the 14th International Ankara Film Festival.
She acted in many cinema films and won awards. The films she acted in are Büyü (2004), Anlat İstanbul (2005), Organiz İşler (2005), Beynemilel (2006), Polis (2007), Mutluluk (2007), O… Çocukları (2008) ve İncir Çekirdeği(2009).
She got the Best Actrees Awards with her performance in Beynelmilel in İstanbul Film Festival in 2007.
She got the Best Actrees Awards with her acting character of Meryem in the film “Mutluluk” which Abdullah Oğuz directed, in many festivals such as Altın Portakal Film Festival, Siyad Awards, Beyaz İnci Awards, Oxfords Film Festival and Pune Film Festival.
He was born in Manisa on 31st of December in 1963. He entered the Mimar Sinan University Cinema-Tv Center as a guest student, but later he graduated from the same school as the real student. He spent his Assistantship Phase with foreign image directors who were shooting long measurements films in Turkey.
When his succes, in short films he shot as image director, was realized at once, he channelled to Cinema and Advertisemnt sector. His interest to aviation met Cinema and after he got his special Pilot licence, he realized many foreign and local Projects air shootings.
Uğur İçbak has shooted 13 Long mesurement Films most of Which would be milestone for Turkish Cinema History many advertisemnts and many clips for songs. With The long measurements films which he directed when he was still student, he was awarded 2 times in The Best Cinematography in Golden Orange and 1time in SIYAD Awards (Cinema Writers Association).
Uğur İçbak attends courses in Türsak Foundation as a tutor and gives applied lessons on “Illumuniation Techniques” regularly. He also works as an instructor in Mimar Sinan University Cinema and Tv Department. He teaches “Shooting and After Shooting Techniques” and he also opens workshops in varied universities Cinema Department.
Görüntü Yönetmenliğini yaptığı uzun metrajlı filmler;
2009 NEŞELİ HAYAT
2008 OSMANLI CUMHURİYETİ
2005 ORGANİZE İŞLER
1999 KAHPE BİZANS
1998 HOŞÇAKAL YARIN
1995 İSTANBUL KANATLARIMIN ALTINDA
Prof. Dr. Zeynep Tül Akbal Sualp
She has been teaching cinema, media and cultural studies in various Universities in Istanbul and gave lectures at Humbold University in Berlin as a visiting Professor last year. She recently has become the faculty member of Cinema and TV Department at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul. She has her BA degree in Psychology and studied Political Science, Cinema Studies and Sociology (Cultural Studies) in New York and İstanbul in MA and PhD levels. She has been writing articles on cultural studies, cinema and critical theory in some journals and the editor of Kültür ve Toplum 1/ Culture and the Society 1, (Hil, 1995), Oyun/ Play (2002) and the author of the book titled ZamanMekan: Kuram ve Sinema/TimeSpace: Theory and Cinema (Bağlam 2004) and co-author of the short fiction: Wanting Book Odd Notebook. (MudamCamp de Base & :mentalKLİNİK, 2004) and also co-author of the book titled From Liberties To Losses and Afterwards (De-Ki 2008) Her recent research interest includes «space and time in cinema and culture », « urban space and cinema », and « technology culture and public sphere»
There is an impressive selection of Turkish movies running for the National Competition in the Altın Koza (Golden Boll) Film Festival. The list includes movies that have won awards in national and international festivals, those released last year and waiting their release dates, films from newcomers and experienced directors, coming-of-age stories, and tragedies of family and love.
The jury member in this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, will head the jury, which include acclaimed names like writer Füruzan, actors Özgü Namal, Bulut Aras, Meltem Cumbul, director Özcan Alper, cinematographer Uğur İçbak, and movie critic Zeynep Tül Akbal Süalp.
Little children, teachers and the bogeyman
The documentary directing duo Orhan Eskiköy and Özgür Doğan return with another unique film in which they blur the lines between reality and fiction. "İki Dil Bir Bavul" (On the Way to School) follows a Turkish teacher throughout the course of one school year as he tries finding ways to communicate with Kurdish children in a village. He doesn’t speak Kurdish, the children don’t speak Turkish, resulting in a unique film selected last year for the competition in the Joris Ivens Award at the Amsterdam International Documentary Festival.
Director, writer and producer Atalay Taşdiken delves further into the world of children with his debut feature "Mommo" (Bogeyman). Inspired by real-life events, the film tells the story of 9-year-old Ali, forced to take responsibility as the elder brother to his sister, Ayşe, as the siblings are separated from their father because of a new stepmother. Mommo is the bogeyman, adding further fear to Ayşe’s unstable life. The film debuted recently in the Berlin Film Festival.
The second movie in director and writer Cemal Şan’s "Soul, Mind and Heart" trilogy, "Dilber’in Sekiz Günü" (Dilber’s Eight Days) becomes the "Soul" of the trilogy. The film takes an inspiring look at the arranged marriages in rural Turkey. Set in a village in Southeast Turkey, Dilber’s life turns upside down when she finds out that her childhood sweetheart Ali’s family set him up for an arranged marriage. In an act of desperation and frustration, Dilber announces that she’s ready to marry the first suitor that comes along. The film went on to win various awards in national film festivals, including for two of its actors, Nesrin Cavadzade and Fırat Tanış.
Last year, "Vicdan" (Conscience) marked the return and the jubilee of one of Turkish cinema’s masters, Erden Kıral, who brought us such classics like "Dilan," "Hakkari’de Bir Mevsim" (A Season in Hakkari) and "Mavi Sürgün" (The Blue Exile) in the past. The film was inspired by the third page news of newspapers, focusing on scandal, family tragedies and sexual escapades gone wrong in Turkey’s lower class. "Vicdan" takes us to a small town, to the impending doom of a love triangle. Both actresses have won prestigious awards, with Nurgül Yeşilçay bringing home the Best Actress award in the Golden Oranges while Tülin Özen won the Turkish Film Critics' Association award for Best Supporting Actress.
Mahmut Fazıl Coşkun’s debut film "Uzak İhtimal" (Wrong Rosary) meets the audience hot on the heels of winning the Tiger Award given to the Best Film in the Rotterdam Film Festival. What’s more impressive is that the film was the first Turkish film to compete at the festival. The film tells the moving story of a love between a müezzin (caller of daily prayer for Muslims), and a prospective nun, and their friendship with an elderly bookseller in Istanbul.
Known for his work on TV, Murat Düzgünoğlu enters the competition with his debut feature, "Hayatın Tuzu" (The Salt of Life). The film tells the story of a widow living in the eastern city of Bitlis, and her relations with her four adult children who are too attached to her for their own good. The events unfold as when the fourth child returns from Istanbul to join his siblings, an imam, a worker in a tobacco factory and a student. The film won the Special Jury prize in the recent İpek Yolu Film Festival in Bursa.
Between city and village
Adapted from novelist Hasan Ali Toptaş’s award-winning cult novel "Gölgesizler" (The Shadowless), experienced writer and director Ümit Ünal turns an Anatolian village into a dreamscape with its bizarre characters and intricate relations. A barber working in Istanbul longs to be "both here and far, far away." And one day, abruptly, he takes off, and travels far away, to a village that is nowhere and at no time.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Ozgur Dogan Born in 1977, Varto, Turkey. He graduated from the Department of Radio-TV and Cinema, Faculty of Communication, Ankara University in 2001. He is working as a Research Assistant at the Middle East Technical University and working on documentary video production independently.
- Each Dream is a Shattered Mirror (2001 - 32 min.)
- Mothers and Children (2004 - 28 min.)
- Suffering (2004 - 46 min.)
- Together (2006 - 36min.)
Zeynel Dogan Born in 1977, Varto, Turkey. He graduated from the Department of Radio-TV and Cinema, Faculty of Communication, Ankara University in 2001. He is working as a Research Assistant at the Middle East Technical University and working on documentary video production independently.
- Edinburgh International Film Festival | 17-28 June 2009 http://www.edfilmfest.org.uk/whats-on/2009/on-the-way-to-school
- 16th Altın Koza International Film Festival in Adana | 8-14 June 2009 http://www.altinkozafestivali.org.tr
- Planete Doc Review | 8-17 May 2009 http://www.docreview.pl/2009/
- 28th International İstanbul Film Festival | 4-19 April 2009 www.iksv.org/film/english
- Movies that Matter Festival | 2-8 April 2009 www.amnestyfilmfestival.nl
- Nicosia International Documentary Film Festival | 24 - 29 March 2009 http://www.cyprusdocfest.org
- 11th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival | 13 - 22 March 2009 www.filmfestival.gr
- ZagrebDox - International Documentary Film Festival | 23 February - 1 March 2009 www.zagrebdox.net
- 21st IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) | 20-30 November 2008 www.idfa.nl
Gn. Zeki Doğan Mah. 12. Sok. No: 26/1
Mamak-ANKARA / TURKEY
Fax: + 90 312 210 35 90
The young Turkish teacher Emre works at a school in an isolated Kurdish village in the South-East of Turkey. Emre's initial enthusiasm quickly turns into frustration and loneliness. The teacher only speaks Turkish whereas the students only understand Kurdish.
Director: Orhan Eskikoy, Özgür Dogan Photography: Orhan Eskikoy Screenplay: Orhan EskikoyEditing: Orhan Eskikoy, Thomas BalkenholSound: Özgür Dogan Production: Özgür Dogan for Peri-san FilmCo-production Pieter van Huystee Film World SalesPeri-san FilmSales Contact : Pieter van Huystee for Pieter van Huystee Film, Özgür Dogan for Peri-san Film
You can watch the film’s trailer and get more information at: www.perisanfilm.com/school.
'On the Way to School' Where did these boys come from?
28 November 2008, Friday | EMİNE YILDIRIM AMSTERDAM
Perhaps the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) will not ring a bell for your average film buff, but those in the global film industry know that it is by far the mother of all creative documentary film festivals.
Furthermore, this year’s festival should have a special meaning for Turkey since, for the first time in the event’s history, a Turkish film is competing in the Joris Ivens competition for feature length documentaries.
For the Ankara-based, fresh-faced directing duo Özgür Doğan and Orhan Eskiköy, their “İki Dil Bir Bavul” (“On the Way to School”) has been a relentless journey of hard work and patience spanning over three years. Watching their film’s premiere Wednesday at Amsterdam’s historic art-deco Tuchinski theatre, I’m more than happy to say that their efforts have not been in vain. The film is a simple and profound piece of work that depicts the one-year journey of the 20-something primary school teacher Emre Aydın from the western city of Denizli who has been appointed to teach in southeastern Urfa’s remote Kurdish village of Demirci. Here’s the catch: Aydın, who cannot speak Kurdish, will have to teach Turkish to a classroom of kids who do not speak a word of the state’s official language. After all, the language spoken in their homes is Kurdish, although most of the adults can speak Turkish. Aydın, being the well-intentioned epitome of the image the republic has set for teachers since its foundation, patiently struggles to bring “civilization” to the provinces by means of primarily teaching the official Turkish language. God knows Aydın tries, and the kids try (they truly love and respect their teacher) but, much like the country’s current policy in dealing with the Kurdish populace, the school year ends without much success. But how could it not? Beyond the fact that the kids speak Kurdish amongst themselves, their lives are limited in the fields of a desolate village prone to constant power cuts where water is a luxury. Except for the presence of the teacher, the state has forgotten them.
I can already hear those grumbles coming from various factions in Turkey regarding the subject matter. Let it be known from this writer that the film is by all means an observational and astute piece of work that aims to raise the right questions in forming a peaceful human dialogue based on tolerance. Nobody can deny that issues of integration, education and cultural and ethnic identity are a reality in Turkey. What “On the Way to School” does is to bring forth, without any kind of intervention, that which is currently being lived and experienced in the daily life of eastern Turkey. The filmmakers’ camera points in the right direction -- in the classroom, not the trenches.
Doğan and Eskiköy have been working together since 2001 and have a handful of award-winning short documentaries under their belt.
The results of the IDFA’s Joris Ivens competition will be announced this Saturday. In Amsterdam everyone is already buzzing about “On the Way to School,” which has already secured its place in the competition’s top 10 favorites. Still, even if Doğan and Eskiköy don’t come home with a prize from Amsterdam, they’ve already come a very long way by being showcased at the IDFA.
Speaking to Today’s Zaman following the film’s premiere in Amsterdam, there is a noticeable glitter in their eyes as they mention their own production journey and the general state of documentary filmmaking in Turkey. Eskiköy answers most of the questions, but it’s obvious that these boys are a rock solid team of two.
How did you decide to make this film?
We had a close friend who was in a similar situation. He was officially appointed as a teacher to another village in the region where the kids didn’t speak Turkish. We found his story very interesting and wanted to capture it on screen. Unfortunately, our friend preferred not to be filmed, but still the story stuck in our minds. We knew that every year new teachers were appointed to villages in the region. We located the Demirci village and waited. Luckily, Emre Aydın who had been appointed there, let us capture him on film throughout the year.
The camera is noticeably invisible throughout the film. How did you manage to get the trust of all the people on screen -- especially the children, who never seem to notice that you were filming?
Of course, before filming we introduced ourselves to everyone in the community and clearly explained what we wanted to do. After a while they got used to seeing us stick around and forgot our presence. As for the children, all of them were focused on the teacher, not the camera, since Emre, after all, was the highest authority in the classroom.
As the film shows, Emre has a frustrating experience throughout his tenure, not only due to the language problem but also as a result of the region’s destitute situation. What kind of an experience was it for you as filmmakers?
Since Özgür knows the region a lot better than I do, he wasn’t surprised. As for me, it was different and slightly shocking, since the Kurdish life that I had envisaged was not what I later saw.
The production story of the film is very interesting. You have a Dutch production partner and you’ve received funds from abroad. Could you elaborate?
We first looked for financing in Turkey. Unfortunately, we were rejected by the fund of the Culture and Tourism Ministry. But we knew we wanted to do this film and do it right. Later we were accepted to the Greenhouse feature-length documentary workshop, supported by the European Union and specifically designed for filmmakers in the Mediterranean region. This was a great opportunity. Not only did we get the chance to develop the project artistically, but we were introduced to producers, commissioning editors and representatives of documentary institutes. A lot of people started talking about and believing in the project, which was great! During this period, we applied to the IDFA’s own Jan Vrijmun Fund and the Sundance Documentary Fund, both of which we received the support of. Also, our Dutch producer, Pieter Van Huystee, came on board.
Was it easy to bring all these partners together?
Naturally it has been a great experience to work on the international level. However, the more people that are involved, the more voices there are that have a say in your project. You have to make everyone happy without forsaking your own perspective. I really wish that we could have been able to find financing in Turkey. After all, this is a film made in Turkey and we want to continue making films in our country, not somewhere else.
Speaking of Turkey, what do you think of the current state of documentary films in the country?
It’s definitely going in a positive direction. There are a lot of great projects being made, especially by the Filmist collective, which includes Berke Baş, Haşmet Topaloğlu, Somnur Vardar and Belmin Söylemez and also the Docist organization, by Necati Sönmez and Emel Çelebi, is admirable. But the real issue is that non-fiction films are still always pushed aside when fiction is mentioned. Documentary directors should be willing to stand up for their rights and not undervalue themselves; they should push for distribution and ask for copyright compensation.
Will you exhibit and maybe distribute the film in Turkey?
Hopefully, it will be shown in the İstanbul International Film Festival in 2009. But, other than that, I highly doubt that any TV channel in Turkey would show it. Our real hope is to distribute the film in cinemas abroad and locally, but transferring from digital to 35 mm prints is not a small task.
Will you be working together again? What’s your next project?
Yes we will. Right now we’re focusing on the exhibition aspect of “On the Way to School,” but we are hoping to make a feature-length fiction film in the near future.
Semih Kaplanoglu | Turkey, France, Germany
2008 | 102 min
Cast: Melih Selçuk, Basak Köklükaya, Riza Akin, Saadet Isil
Aksoy, Tülin Özen, Alev Uçarer
An aspiring writer balances the demands of family, art and
Turkey continues to produce some of the most elegant and
profound cinema on the international scene. This supremely
delicate and engaging coming of age drama follows sensitive
country boy Yusuf as he struggles to scrape a living in a
changing rural economy, whilst also managing the turbulent
emotions of adolescence and seeking recognition for his
poetry. When his single mother finds a romantic interest of her
own, the future looks even more uncertain...
On the Way to School
Orhan Eskiköy, Özgür Dogan | Turkey | 2009 | 81 min
All the charm of Être et Avoir: school life seen through the eyes
of a young Turkish teacher just finding his feet.
Recently graduated primary teacher Emre has been sent to run
a remote school in Turkish Kurdistan. He arrives to discover a
village with no running water, a somewhat relaxed approach
to school attendance, and pupils who only speak Kurdish,
a language fervently prohibited by the Turkish government.
Filmed over one year, this is a beautiful, affectionate and gently
humorous observation of Emre (never far from a phone call
home to his mum) and his class as they struggle to come to
terms with one another’s customs.