"Alternative Perspectives on Turkeyâ€™s Cinematic Landscape"
Edited by G. Carole Woodall
In recent years, Turkish cinema - be it produced by Turkish, European companies or joint ventures - has garnered more attention in international film festivals and competitions. Internationally recognized and awarded films by directors, such as Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Fatih Akin, have been instrumental in situating Turkish cinema within a European cultural arena. One aspect of this resurgence reflects a trend both in scholarship and cultural production which counters dominant nationalist narratives. One need just be reminded of the recent controversy surrounding the Turkish state’s cases against noted authors Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak on the grounds of freedom of expression, or for “insulting Turkishness.” These examples only allude to tension stemming from the overwhelming, albeit dwindling, demand of the Turkish public for European Union membership and the country's politically fraught history. It is against this backdrop that Turkish cinema has recently tackled a variety of controversial topics, i.e. migrant communities in Istanbul, the Turkish army, relocation of the Greek community, and political corruption. As this edition of Arteeast’s online journal coincides with the 8th Annual New York Turkish Film Festival organized by the Moon and Stars Project, each contribution seeks to address an aspect of the contemporary Turkish cinematic landscape from the local, regional, and international realms.
Whereas each author takes a different point of entry, each article succeeds in complicating the Turkish cinematic landscape. Hilmi Maktav’s article provides a critical appraisal of the genre of “historical movies” and situates these films within a broader context of representations of the Turkish army on celluloid. Maktav considers the ways that directors treat the military institution in light of the political turbulence of the 1970s and 1980s coups and current globalizing and internal variables. The position of Turkish films within the diaspora in Australia as well as New York is considered by Vanessa H. Larson and Catherine Simpson. Catherine Simpson’s article examines Turkish film festivals, specifically the 1998 Turkish Film Festival in Sydney, Australia to explore financial, political, and diaspora considerations in festival programming. Vanessa H. Larson provides a sketch of the Moon and Stars Project initiative and mission focused on the promotion of Turkish arts and culture thus situating the organization within a larger festival trend. M. Zeynep Dadak provides a sketch of multicultural Istanbul and its relation to an increase of ‘transnational’ interest to it. She suggests that this interest is correlated with particular representations in film by focusing on two documentaries, In Transit (Berke Bas, 2005) and Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (Fatih Akin, 2005), thereby complicating Istanbul’s illusory multiculturalism. In an interview with Buket Sahin, Pelin Esmer, a new voice in Turkish documentary, discusses her experience making and working with the women who serve as the subject of her award winning documentary, The Play.
Most of the posters accompanying the articles are featured in this year’s film festival. For further information, go to www.nyturkishfilmfestival.com or www.moonandstarsproject.org.
G. Carole Woodall is a PhD Candidate in the Joint Middle East and Islamic Studies and History program at New York University. Her dissertation examines the cultural landscape of 1920s Istanbul.
1. The foreign press has extensively covered the cases of both authors. For further information refer to Sebnem Arsu, “Istanbul Court Clears Author of Insulting Turkish Identity” in New York Times, 22 September 2006; Benjamin Harvey, “Novelist Elif Shafak acquitted, but Turkey remains a country where authors can be put on trial” in Associated Press Worldstream, 21 September 2001