Holding up a mirror to topics such as Identity, immigration and Turkish society & culture, could the “New Turkish Cinema” be considered as an important instrument for Turkey on its long way to the EU membership?
In recent years, with the emergence of the “new wave Turkish cinema”, the film industry in Turkey has never been so diverse and productive according to many cinema professionals. From Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Fatih Akın to Semih Kaplanoğlu and Zeki Demirkubuz, Turkish directors have received numerous awards at major international festivals throughout the world. In his book entitled Cinema in Turkey, Savas Arslan claimed: “Boasting nearly 7,000 titles, Turkey has produced more films than any other country in the Middle East or the Balkans. While the films enjoy great popularity at home, they haven't received the respect they deserve beyond their borders. Frequently, Turkey's cinema has been painted as imitative, simplistic or underdeveloped, casting it in shadow to the West. But things are finally changing. Turkish filmmakers like Nuri Bilge Ceylan are turning up in cinematheques worldwide.”
Dr Deniz Bayrakdar, professor in the Radio, Television and Cinema Department and Dean of the Faculty of Communication, at Kadir Has University, has provided valuable information on the new Turkish Cinema and its place in Europe.
Interview with Prof. Dr. G. Deniz BAYRAKDAR
1) In the book entitled Cinema and Politics: Turkish Cinema and the New Europe (2009), in which you are the author & editor, you claimed that: “Varied approaches concerning the relation between cinema and politics focus on policies, eras, countries, main stream and art cinema productions, transnational examples, changing narratives and identities.”
How would you describe the relation between the new Turkish cinema and politics?
The auteurs of the New Turkish Cinema have embedded “politics” in their narratives. The stories function as “caché” to veil the politics of the everyday life. I am referring to the films of Zeki Demirkubuz, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Tayfun Pirselimoğlu. They hide politics behind the curtains of the rooms, in the television frames and at tables where no one speaks to the other. Look at their films, Rıza (Tayfun Pirselimoğlu, 2007) Üç Maymun (Three Monkeys, Ceylan, 2008), Kader (Destiny, Zeki Demirkubuz, 2006).
Another category of auteurs inserts politics into the narrative per se. Yeşim Ustaoğlu is one of the prominent directors who waives her stories of migration around the politics of the displacement in Bulutları Beklerken (Waiting for the Clouds, 2003). Pandora’nın Kutusu (Pandora’s Box, 2008) reveals the politics of the genealogical pattern. Because of their mother’s disease –Alzheimer- daughters and sons experience the scars of the present by going back to their past.
In short, the New Turkish Cinema searches for truth in the everyday life of the ordinary (wo)man. Spaces and figures we are not aware of, times that seem not to be attached to a specific place. Cities and little towns as well as landscapes are created with a renewed gaze and a more greyish atmosphere.
2) In the same book your introduction is entitled ‘‘Son of Turks’ claim: I’m a child of European Cinema”.
Could you please enlighten us about these Turks you have defined as children of European Cinema?
I referred to the German-Turkish director Fatih Akın and the Italian-Turkish director Ferzan Özpetek.
In this introduction I made a discourse analysis based on the news and interviews with the prominent Turkish and German-Turkish directors in the 2000s. The claim “I’m a child of European Cinema” belongs to Fatih Akın and I think he is right in saying this. Astonishingly he knows how to balance his narrative between Turkey and Germany. In my article on his film The Edge of Heaven I wrote that he brings the imaginative line from Europe till to the shores of the Black Sea. His Europe goes back to his hometown which he defined at the beginning of his career as “We forgot to go back” (“Wir haben vergessen zurückzukehren”, 2001).
3) In addition to film festivals, academic partnerships in the film industry between Turkey and Europe aim at establishing a permanent dialogue between Europe and Turkey through arts and cultural projects. “Cultural Bridges” is one of the programs supported by the EU.
According to you, how Turkish film industry may contribute to Turkey’s accession process to the EU?
I think the accession is a totally cultural project. The prejudices, the lack of knowledge about each other’s cultures, in short the neglect is based principally on the cultural background which is attached to the language, history and religion.
Artistic creation is the only way to overcome these lacks and motivate the will to know each other. Films especially are major media by telling ways of “how to approach each other” through modeling. Turkish cinema has its own mode of production, there is not a so-called “Turkish Film Industry”.
However, we have witnessed a great turnover in the TV series. They have now reached an incredible audience which we must not forget. This is a way to reach a more general audience than the selected examples of the Turkish cinema.
4) From an academic perspective do you believe that the EU funds & support in the Cinema and Television studies in Turkey is adequate to encourage Turkish students and academics to build a bridge between Turkey and Europe via cinema?
To my knowledge there is no student of mine who received EU funds for her/his further studies. Student exchange programmes and other initiatives are very helpful.
It would be ideal to find a way to support them through EU funds for their further education in Europe.
Deniz Bayrakdar is professor at Kadir Has University, Faculty of Communication, Radio, Television and Cinema Department. She mainly teaches Film History and European Cinema. Since 1998, she has organized the New Directions in Turkish Film Studies Conference and edited ten books of the series.
Some of her co-editions are : Mapping the Margins: Identity Politics and the Media (Hampton Press2002, with Karen Ross); Cinema and Politics: Turkish Cinema and The New Europe (Cambridge Scholars: 2011).
She is Vice-Chair to the Information and Communication Committee, Unesco Turkish National Commission.
To Go Further
On Nouvelle Europe
- This month’s publication: Le Cinema et l'audiovisuel en Europe
- Bayrakdar, Deniz. “Turkish Cinema: An Institute For Identity Constructıon” Women’s Memory: The Problem of Sources. D. Fatma Türe and Birsen Talay Keşoğlu. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011.
- Bayrakdar, Deniz (Prof.Dr.) ‘Turkish Cinema and the New Europe’, Cinema and Politics: Turkish Cinema and the New Europe (der. D. Bayrakdar), London: Cambridge Scholars Publishers, 2009.
- Suner, Asuman. New Turkish Cinema: Belonging, Identity and Memory. London: I.B. Tauris, 2009.
- Özgüç, Agah. A Chronological History of the Turkish Cinema 1914-1988, trans. Giovanni Scognamillo. Istanbul: Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 1988.
- Arslan, Savaş. Cinema in Turkey: A New Critical History, Oxford University Press, 2011.
- Gönül Dönmez-Colin. Turkish Cinema: Identity, Distance and Belonging, Reaktion Books, 2008.
- Dorsay, Atilla. "Turkish Cinema: Journey to the Future." The Asian Film Quarterly. 47-48. Spring 2000.
- Sippl, Diane. "Ceylan and Company: Autobiographical Trajectories of Cinema." Cineaction. 67. 2005. 44-57.
On the Internet
- Dave Calhou’s interview with Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan: http://www.timeout.com/london/film/nuri-bilge-ceylan-interview
- The New Wave Cinema of Turkey: http://theculturetrip.com/europe/turkey/articles/the-new-wave-cinema-of-...
- Meetings on the Bridge: http://film.iksv.org/en/meetingsonthebridge
- SPIEGEL Interview with Director Fatih Akin: From Istanbul to New York: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/spiegel-interview-with-director- fatih-akin-from-istanbul-to-new-york-a-508521.html
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
- Garbage in the Garden of Eden (documentary) 2012
- Soul Kitchen 2009
- New York, I Love You (segment "Fatih Akin") 2009
- The Edge of Heaven 2007
- Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul 2005 (documentary)
- Head-On 2004
- Jin, dir. 2012
- Somewhere in Between 2012
- The Butterfly's Dream 2012
Source photo: © Deniz Bayrakdar.