Saturday, August 20, 2011

Interview | Belma Baş

Interview Belma Baş director of Zephyr SOURCE

Belma Baş was born in Ordu, Turkey in 1969. After moving to Istanbul to study English literature, she developed an interest in being a director. Her first short, Poyraz, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. Zephyr, about a troubled 11 year old girl who is spending the summer living with her grandparents on their isolated farm, awaiting the return of her absent mother, is her debut feature.

Since when has cinema been a part of your life?

For a long time (laughs). In my childhood there was only one TV channel, and I strongly remember seeing images of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal without really knowing what they were. Throughout my childhood, European films were shown: it wasn’t all mainstream Hollywood things. So you could see very good examples of European cinema.

When I moved from my small town to Istanbul, there was a little film festival, which is now the biggest film festival in all Turkey, and I saw things like Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and I became aware that a different style of cinema exists. I was fascinated by this. I was most interested in the mavericks of their own countries.

Zephyr addresses similar themes to your earlier short film. Is this by design?

Yes, my short film was a prelude to Zephyr. I used many of the same non-professional actors. Also, because there is a lack of heroines in cinema, I want to make a series of films from a female point of view. The male perspective is very different from the female perspective, so I’m trying to capture new traits.

Is Zephyr an autobiographical film?

The storyline is fictional, but otherwise everything is real. I started with experiences I had growing up. I wanted to go back to the roots of everything. I gained a new perspective coming to a big city, Istanbul, and it’s a kind of nostalgia that takes me back to my home town. There are also references to the 70s period in the music. Somehow, I’m a little fixated with the 70s, my childhood. But the situation of the movie is fictional; I am not like Zephyr. Well, I was kind of autistic, maybe! Zephyr is kind of autistic too. She lives in her own world, and she has different reactions to everybody else about life.

Is it fair to say the style of the movie is indebted to classic European cinema?

Yes, and it’s not only Tarkovsky. Look at the cow’s eye; it’s like Bunuel! I was also influenced by Bresson, and the mother’s face is framed as a tribute to Bergman. All those influences form the pieces of a puzzle: childhood, family history, my relationship with English literature, the masters of contemporary cinema, like Haneke and Van Sant. They are handling delicate issues in a deadpan style and with frightening starkness. I believe there is no creation without tradition. Every influence I have makes its way into the formation of my own filmmaking.

Zephyr’s mother is a very mysterious character. Why do you think she has abandoned her daughter?

I just gave a little hint, because if it’s very obvious, then people’s focus will go. It’s just a part of the bigger picture. At the end we see there is a UNICEF file which falls out of the backpack. It is about children who are under threat. She knows she can leave her child in a safe environment. So, she cares about other children for very idealistic reasons. She feels more of a social responsibility than a political one.

The movie was shot on film; what do you think of digital production methods?

I am still a conservative in this respect. I love film stock. I can’t think of using digital, because it makes things look unsophisticated. The advantages of film are still much higher than the advantages of digital. My DP is also very fond of film. But, in terms of budget, I may have to move to digital for the next project.

Do you learn about yourself making films?

Of course. I confront my secret fears. I have big questions about life and the dark side. This film can be summed up as a ‘coming of age’ story about growing up, and I myself need to be a more grown-up person, maybe. Making films helps me to solve my issues (laughs).

By Michael O’Regan

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