Without a doubt, Ali Özgentürk is one of the leading names among the generation that started filmmaking in the 80s. Özgentürk, who hails from Adana and is a graduate of Sociology Department of the Faculty of Literature, was involved in theatre beginning in the early years of his studies and brought theatre to the streets with his troupe Street Theatre. He gained attention in the 70s with his short films such as Ferhat and Forbidden. He later served as an assistant to Yılmaz Güney and Zeki Ökten, and in 1980 he transitioned to directing with his first feature Hazal. At the time Hazal was very well received and praised by the critics, and I had written “a cinema that recalls the most mature period of Pasolini.” When I re-watched it 30 years later at an event in Amiens, France, I saw that it still had the same power and beauty about it.
The cinema of Özgentürk, which blends realism with symbolism, continued in films such as The Horse and The Guardian with participations from authors like Onat Kutlar and Işıl Özgentürk. About the former Özgentürk has said “an attempt to capture the natural flow of life in one of the most bizarre cities in the world: Istanbul.” This was one of the most interesting products of Özgentürk’s efforts to capture the fantastic that emanates from reality as opposed to classical realism. The Guardian was an attempt to adopt Orhan Kemal’s renowned novel Murtaza in a different way.
His later films such as Water Also Burns, about a director’s creative block, Nude, which is dominated by surrealism, and The Letter, a “war-horse” story, were much debated. He started the 2000’s with Balalayka; another collaboration with Işıl Özgentürk. The film, which blends melancholia with humour, reconciled him with the press and his audience. After The Time of the Heart, a story of love and murder which takes place entirely in the backdrop of Pera Palas, and The Crab Game, a big family saga, he directed his latest film Unseen about renowned Hungarian composer Bela Bartok who visited Turkey during Atatürk’s era to study local folk music.
Ali Özgentürk, who directed 10 feature films and half a dozen shorts, deserves to be re-watched and evaluated with all his works. Let’s hope that this lovely award will become a new opportunity to do that.
– Atilla Dorsay