Friday, April 13


Traces of war on the streets of Sarajevo

Sarajevo March from “National Documentary Competition” was screened at Pera Museum Auditorium with the participation of the director Ersan Bayraktar and the film crew. The film narrates the Siege of Sarajevo through a march that 10 different characters set out to on the streets of Sarajevo 20 years later. The director said: “We’ve been hearing the stories told in the film since our childhood. War seems like a game from outside, but only when we’re inside, we can understand what it feels like.” He also answered the question about how they picked the characters in the film: “We met a graduate student who was running a second hand bookshop across from the bridge where the First World War started. We told him about our project, then he found us 15 people.”

Shirin Neshat: “Oum Kulthum is an untouchable figure.”

Looking for Oum Kulthum from “Musicians” was screened at Atlas Sineması with the participation of Iranian director Shirin Neshat who answered the questions from the audience after the screening. The film shows the life of Oum Kulthum, the legendary singer of the Arab World, in a “film-within-a-film” form. This year, director Neshat is also among the Jury of Istanbul Film Festival’s “Human Rights in Cinema Competition”. Before the screening Neshat said: “I’m actually a photographer. The film you’re about to see is mostly based on this form. I should also mention that you’re going to watch a complicated film; it’s a multi-layered film in which the archival material and dream sequences are intertwined. In this film reality and fiction become one with one another.” After the screening, Neshat talked about Oum Kulthum: “As an artist, I also sometimes think I make a mistake or that I’ve failed. The reason why the protagonist tears Oum Kulthum to pieces at the very end is because Oum Kulthum never fails… Oum Kulthum is an untouchable figure. She was an artist dedicated to her art and to her work. That’s why she’s become who she is.”

Semih Kaplanoğlu: “I’ve learned a lot from Bergman.”

The screening of Winter Light from the section “Bergman: 100 Years” took place at Beyoğlu Sineması, and director Semih Kaplanoğlu presented the film that he picked: “When I was 15, I watched Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal on Turkish state TV. It was the first Bergman film I’d seen. I remember I was much impressed. I then read books about Bergman and watched documentary films made about him. Each time I would find it fascinating that he had this unfiltered look that was based on humans and their inner world. When it comes to cinema, Bergman asks the most real and painful questions about human existence. He proves human soul’s existence through a spirit, a feeling or an image. To me, he doesn’t just walk inside the dark labyrinths of human soul but also gives hope. I think without Bergman’s female characters it wouldn’t be possible to describe the women of today or come close to understanding their psyche.” Then the director read the notes that Bergman took in his book The Magic Lantern about Winter Light. “I’ve always tried to make my films interesting for the audience. However, I wasn’t so stupid to believe that people would love Winter Light. Not even one shooting session was done in natural light. I shot all of them under cloudy and foggy weather. In general, Winter Light lacks many dramatic moments.” Then Kaplanoğlu continued: “Bergman is an artist who always oscillated between believing and not believing in God. He’s said that the question of God is the main theme of his art. He conveys different states of existence through the inner conflicts, pains or abandonments and the inquiries into their moral compass that the characters develop before certain situations. His characters, just like himself, aren’t afraid to ask such questions as ‘Who are we? Does God exist? What is our purpose on earth?’”.

A Journey to the Nazilli Sümerbank Factory of Fabric Printing

Another Train Gıdı Gıdı from the section “National Documentary Competition” was screened at Pera Museum Auditorium with the participation of the director Yasin Ali Türkeri. The film tells the historical journey of Nazilli Sümerbank Factor of Fabric Printing, built in 1937 with the support of the Soviet Russia, through a factory train called Gıdı Gıdı. The film took about eight years to complete and the director Türkeri said of the starting point of the film: “I’m also from Nazilli. I used to ride that train all the time. I wanted to keep alive a part of me that disappeared away in time.” The director also said that they took much of the footage from the General Directorate of Cinema, and commented on the film’s journey from now on: “First, we want the film to go to festivals. This was the premiere. Then it’ll be shown at TRT International Documentary Awards and in a few other places as well. I hope it’ll be released after that.”

Emre Yeksan: “The story emerged from my different states of mind.”

The Gulf from the “National Competition” was screened at Atlas Sineması with the participation of the director Emre Yeksan who explained how the film came about: “Ever since I was a child, whenever I wrote, I always started with real stories but then had the urge to break it off and take it elsewhere. When I would read it, I always thought ‘I wonder if this is coming from my desire to change the reality that I was in?’ This is actually an expression of our desire to change the World that we live in. The film is autobiographical in terms of the character’s feelings; and the story emerged from my different states of mind. I was at a point where I had to make some decisions about my life but was unable to, and then I came across with the smell of the Gulf of Izmir. My state of mind at the time and that feeling of not being able to place yourself anywhere were the determining factors in character development. But then the story stepped outside of the realistic universe, so we cannot call it autobiographical anymore. After I wrote this story, I sent it to Ahmet Büke and we began to work on it together. When we were creating the framework for the story and the character’s feelings, we tried to diffuse what we felt into the character’s world.”

Ankara’s rock and metal music scene

Documentary film Black, Not Grey: Ankara Rocks! from the section “Musicians” was screened at Beyoğlu Sineması with the participation of the director Ufuk Önen and the film crew. The film, which shows Ankara’s rock and metal music scene from the 70s, the 80s and the 90s, took seven years to complete, said Önen, and added: “We watched the first edit and realized that it wasn’t quite what we wanted. Editing and making changes wasn’t going to do it. We tossed it out, and re-edited. We didn’t like that either. Then we did it again. After that, it became what it is. So we actually spent a lot of time to get here.” One of the screenwriters, Ayhan Yücel, who is also the editor of the film, said: “I think what we cared most in making this film was to convey the right feeling to the audience. It wasn’t about researching it well, or finding the correct information and putting that into the film.” Co-writer Neslihan Atcan Altan also commented: “The people we interviewed didn’t know the questions beforehand. So they answered them on the spot. We did the shooting that way and carried on trying to put it all together in a smooth and fluid way.”

Sneaking into Homes and Lives…

Scaffolding from “Young Masters” was screened at Cinemaximum Zorlu Center, with the participation of the director Matan Yair and the lead actor Asher Lax. The film discusses the concepts of education, masculinity and family through a teacher and his troubled student. The director Yair made the film by looking at his own teaching experience, and the actor Asher Lax is one of his real-life students. After the screening, Yair and Lax listened to the audience’s comments and answered the questions. Yair said: “Asher and his family were putting up scaffolding at construction sites just like in the film. When we were walking inside the buildings I turned to him and asked ‘You don’t sneak into these homes? Aren’t you curious to know what kinds of lives they’re leading?’ to which he replied: ‘Impossible. It’s against the law, against the rules. We would never do that’. So I wrote the screenplay based on this. (…) Death is one of the most difficult things that one encounters in life. I was also going through a bad time in my life when I wrote it. So I said to myself: ‘Whose death would devastate you most?’ Most of us go to school but what happens to students when the school is finished, what happens to teachers? Do they leave any marks? Only something so dramatic leaves its mark on the student.”

“The idea came from life”

The Home from “International Competition” was screened at Cinemaximum City’s Nişantaşı, with the participation of the director Asghar Yousefinejad. The film tells the story of a testament, and the director talked about the film: “The idea came from real life; they were things I saw around me. There are such lives in every part of the world. We did rehearsals for three months and filmed it in two weeks.” One person from the audience commented that the dialogues in the film were very much natural, to which Yousefinejad replied: “There was no improvisation. But I didn’t put any dialogue in the film that I hadn’t heard in real life either. I picked all of them from life itself; that’s why it was so natural.” The director also talked about the cast: “There are no professional film actors in the film; some of them are theater actors, some are students, and the rest were ordinary people.”

Durmuş Akbulut: “I wanted to try to use a new language.”

Watchman from the sub-section of “Out of Competition” in “Turkish Cinema” was screened at Beyoğlu Sineması with the participation of the director Durmuş Akbulut. The director said that the watchman character is a common figure and dedicated the film to the actor Turan Özdemir who recently passed away. Akbulut claimed that Watchman is not a conventional film, and added: “It’s my first film, and I wanted to try to use a new language. The film also has a dry sense of humor, in the Chekhovian sense perhaps. I was influenced by Giovanni Papini a lot. I began making the film in 2014 but have just been able to finish it. We found the money somehow, but it was hard.”

“The talent I was looking for was right under my nose”

Handle with Care from “Best of the Fests” was screened at Cinemaximum Zorlu Center with the participation of the director Arild Andresen. Director Andresen received the compliments made to the child actor on behalf of him and said: “We looked all around the country for the child actor. Kristoffer was one of the first ones we selected and he was our favorite from the beginning. But then we found out that he was living a couple of blocks away from me. He got along very well with the other Kristoffer who plays his father in the film. We were so lucky, because the trust they felt toward each other allowed them to do a great job even in the scenes where they had to push each other. He’s only seven now but when we first met, he immediately said ‘I want to become an actor’. And he did a great job in our film.”

On Chilly Gonzales…

Shut Up and Play the Piano from “Musicians” was screened at Atlas Sineması with the participation of the director Philipp Jedicke. An idiosyncratic man in the indie music scene, pianist Chilly Gonzales’s journey in music is shown in the film. The director Jedicke talked about the starting point of the film: “We can’t say that Chilly Gonzales makes great music. But I chose him because he can affect the audience and is able to give whatever feeling he wants, whether it’s an orgasmic moment or a sad one. That’s what fascinated me. But he also lied to me. When I told him I wanted to make a documentary film about him, he said ‘it’ll be the first one,’ but there were two more films made about him.” The audience asked him if Gonzales had seen the film, to which he replied: “Until the rough edit, neither of us watched the film. He didn’t want anything to be taken out of the film. He said ‘This is me, and if the film is going to be my biography, it should be really me’. Even though he was a little bothered by his double chin seen in the film, we had quite a nice time.”

“We haven’t come here to understand but feel things”

Put to the Things from the section “National Competition” was screened at Atlas Sineması with the participation of the director Onur Ünlü and the film crew. Ünlü said that it is not right to take an analytical approach to the film, and added: “We think in terms of understanding and not understanding, but this is not the right criterion for art. Liking it or not liking it would be a better one. A film is not a mathematical problem, after all. They are two different things. We have to look at the artwork more in terms of emotions. We need to talk about feeling a film atmospherically. What comes out of a film should be understood emotionally. We haven’t come here to understand, but feel things.” The director said that he forms the script and the character in some kind of a stream of consciousness, and added that the text is coherent according to the rules of dramaturgy: “I make strange films but I’ve also got great actors. All of it would have stayed on paper if it wasn’t for them.”

Yesterday at Meetings on the Bridge

Meet the Funds and the Markets

Meetings on the Bridge started the day with the panel “Meet the Funds and Markets” presented by representatives of funds and markets from different parts of the world. The moderator of the talk was Selin Murat from Parabola Films and the panelists were the following: “Eilon Ratzkovsky (TorinoFilmLab), Elise Jalladeau (Selanik IFF), Fay Breeman (Hubert Bals Fund - IFF Rotterdam), Georges Goldenstern (Cinefondation), Cia Edström (Nordic Film Market), Lindsay Peters (Frontieres), Martina Bleis (Connecting Cottbus), Ruxandra Cernat (Film TEEP) and Signe Zeilich-Jensen (Holland Film Fund). 

The event took place at Yapı Kredi Kültür Sanat, and each participant presented funds or markets, and also gave advice on what to do and what not to do during the application process. They emphasized that it’s always more advantageous that the projects tell their purpose briefly and to the point, and pointed out that a project should state its distinguishing feature that sets it apart from the other ones. It was shared that although speaking a foreign language, particularly English, is not a requirement to apply to the film markets, having the basic command has a positive impact on establishing a long-lasting relationship with potential producers. The participants also said that it helps to share with the markets some visual material and a teaser if possible, and added that the right method of promotion is a must in order to find co-producers or foreign funding.

Meet the Festivals

Yesterday’s second event of Meetings on the Bridge was “Meet the Festivals” moderated by Armağan Lale from Filmada. The representatives of international festivals were: Dorota Lech (Hot Docs), Elma Tataragić (Bosna-Hersek FF), Evrim Ersoy (Fantastic Fest), Freddy Olsson (Göteborg FF), Julia Barda (Seattle IFF), Julia Sinkevych (Odesa FF), Karel Och (Karlovy Vary FF), Lorenzo Esposito (Locarno FF), Nebojsa Jovanovic (Kinenova Skopje IFF), Orestis Andreadakis (Selanik FF), Pedja Milojevic (Trebinje FF), Prune Engler (La Rochelle IFF), Sona Karapoghosyan (Malatya Golden Apricot FF), Stefan Laudyn (Warsaw Film Festival), Tiina Lokk (Tallinn Black Nights FF), Yoshi Yatabe (Tokyo FF) Zviad Eliziani (Batum FF).

The representatives talked about their submission processes, which criteria they held, and their submission fee policies. They emphasized that filmmakers should follow their own desires and not having festivals on mind.

If You See, You Exist

The last Meetings on the Bridge event of the day was “Women in Cinema: What has changed until today and what is next?”. Ceylan Özgün Özçelik (Director), Cia Edström (Industry Manager - Göteborg FF), Francine Raveney (Project Manager - Eurimages), Meltem Ağduk (Gender Program Coordinator - UNFPA), Meryem Yavuz (Director of Photography), Müge Özen (Producer - Solis Film) and Teresa Hoefert de Turegano (Funding Advisor - Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg) were the participants, and film critic Doç. Dr. Melis Behlil moderated the talk.

Teresa Hoefert de Turegano said that although there is now a more equal distribution of both genders in film schools, unfortunately it isn’t reflected in the industry or in the ratio of women’s to men’s acceptance for funding, and added that there’s an increase in awareness but the way to make female filmmakers visible in the industry is to make long-term action plans. Francine Raveney shared that in terms of gender equality they’re aiming at a ratio of 50% at Eurimages for 2020, and pointed out that not only equal funding but equal distribution of the funds is also important.

The panelists agreed that the fight against gender inequality in cinema is possible by taking concrete steps and through action plans, and talked about the importance of reaching certain numbers by researching the market. They shared that the data found by the industry research made by Geena Davis Institute show Hollywood the facts that, despite the common belief, the number of female audience is greater than the number of male audience, and that men watch films in which female characters steer the story. Meltem Ağduk added that, in this sense, it is necessary to bring academia and the industry together and that these data need to be found in order to transform the market. Ağluk said that she sees positive discrimination as a temporary measure and talked about the necessity of solidarity mechanisms in which women organize with each other.

Müge Özen proposed that the argument shouldn’t be formed based on the necessity of there being an equal number of women as men, rather on the lack of female perspective on the screen or in cinema, and argued further that no matter the director is male or female, stories told from a female perspective should also meet the audience. The panelists quoted Geena Davis’s phrase “If she can see it, she can be it,” and explained that when young women see a female director of photography represented, it’ll become normal for them to imagine it for themselves. Director of photography Meryem Yavuz to her personal experience: “When I decided to make films in high school, I didn’t think about how being a woman would make my life difficult. None of the women I worked with ever asked me ‘Is it okay if you carry the camera on your shoulder?’, but all men did. They weren’t satisfied by the answer I gave them, so this weird atmosphere always remained until the work was done. Because being a woman is not a concern in my life, I keep on fighting. I study a lot to prepare myself and for the sets as well.”

Ceylan Özgün Özçelik said that they’re looking for funding for their second film, and added that the entire crew of the film is made of women and that they want the executive team they’ll work with to be exclusively of women as well. The director talked about the difficulty of making a second film for independent filmmakers and asked a question about production: “How many companies think of women when they’re looking for a director for the project today?” After Raveney argued that awareness will be raised once the visibility increases, all the panelists agreed that we all need to keep up the fight wherever we live: “We’re fighting and we have to keep on fighting!”