Thursday, June 07, 2012
In memoriam: Seyfi Teoman | Kenji Ishizaka
In memoriam: Seyfi Teoman, film director
Seyfi Teoman, the promising young film director from Turkey, passed away on May 18th at the age of thirty-five. He had been in hospital since April, after being involved in a motorbike accident. Words cannot express my sadness at this sudden tragic news.
Born in 1977, Mr. Teoman studied in Poland, where he attended the prestigious National Film School in Lodz, whose alumni include Andrzej Wajda, Roman Polanski, and Jerzy Skolimowski. He attracted early attention with his graduation film, the short feature Apartment (2004) and from the outset of his career he established close links with TIFF. His first feature film Summer Book was entered in the Winds of Asia-Middle East Section at TIFF in 2008, while in 2011 his second film Our Great Despair was also screened in this section.
Summer Book is the tender portrayal of the gradual maturing over the period of one summer of a shy young boy living in a provincial city, in the course of his relationships with various people. The film marked the emergence of yet another directorial talent from the burgeoning Turkish film scene, which has been in the ascendancy since the dawn of the twenty-first century. When I heard the director say on a visit to Japan that his greatest influences were Taiwanese new-wave directors such as Hsiao-Hsien Hou and Edward Yang, it dawned on me that the hero Ali was a junior version of Tung-Tung or Yang-Yang.
Although only it was his second directorial film, Our Great Despair was selected for the Berlin International Film Festival Competition. The film portrays the changes that occur when a pretty female university student comes to lodge for free in a house occupied by two dull forty-something men, presenting in detached fashion the chemistry that gradually develops and the changes in the relationships between the three protagonists. With most of the action taking place indoors, the narrative is tranquil and unemotional. The director’s ability to quietly captivate the audience using only a combination of the view of the dining table and the dialogue around it between the protagonists is nothing short of remarkable. To draw again on examples from Taiwan, I felt that the sensibilities exhibited by this film clearly bore a direct relation to A Confucian Confusion (1994) and Mahjong (1996), and that somehow Mr. Teoman was turning into a director more akin to Yang than to Hou. Indeed, I recall a conversation with Yoshihiko Yatabe, the director of the TIFF Competition section and a self-confessed fan of Mr. Teoman, in which he remarked that Mr. Teoman would likely become a maestro of the “lovable loser” genre.
He had embarked last year on a second career as a producer and with eyes agleam had excitedly told me that he was full of ideas for new projects. His untimely death thus comes as a terrible shock. I am proud, however, to have been involved in introducing Summer Book and Our Great Despair to Japan.
I pray that his soul may rest in peace.
Winds of Asia-Middle East Section
Tokyo International Film Festival
Labels: S. Teoman