Transparent Landscape: Turkey

Coming to terms with the past, the clash of cultures, and intellectual reflections on everyday life – just three aspects of a country larger than Ukraine and as unknown as the Orient

YPS JIN (Asmin Bayram, Mizgin Tabu, 2016)

Although the recent coup attempt put Turkey on the front page, it is still too soon for a documentary reflection of this summer’s events.

For this reason, we decided to seek out filmmakers who previously sensed the growing tensions in society and tried to capture them in their work. The central themes of the films in this section are women’s resistance, the clash of cultures, coming to terms with the past, and an intellectual reflection on society. Our selection was also guided by the depth of the filmmakers’ investigations and the use of specific filmmaking techniques (this applies especially to I’ve Come and I’ve Gone, Backward Run (Tornistan), and Over Time).

Turkey has been unjustly criticized for its treatment of refugees. In reality, in 2014 the UN called Turkey the most generous country in terms of providing asylum to foreign refugees. Although the country called for help from all sides, nothing happened. Only when a minority of the more than three million people fleeing war and collapsing states began to head further west did we finally discover this global problem (the subject is explored in Callshop Istanbul and in How Would You Like to Migrate?).

Kurds were long forbidden from using their language or expressing their culture; sometimes villages – and more recently even entire neighborhoods – have been razed to the ground. The civil war has been raging for more than three decades. Although just a year ago a two-year ceasefire gave hope for a peaceful resolution, during the recent state of emergency the army of this NATO member has again destroyed hundreds of homes. The details of the conflict defy the imagination (Sept.–Oct. 2015, Cizre).

With Rojava, we are witnessing the emergence of a remarkable democratic experiment. Kurds are the most effective fighting force in Syria to struggle against Daesh. They are known throughout the world for their heroic defense of Kobanî, which marked an important turning point in the international war now happening in Syria. The defenders of Kobanî thus wrote history (the subject is covered by Gulîstan, Land of Roses).

 Küpeli (Çetin Baskın, Metin Akdemir, 2013)

Critical thinking is suppressed on multiple levels by the system. For instance, according to Reporters without Borders, Turkey consistently ranks around 150th (out of slightly less than 200) in terms of freedom of speech. Especially for the past three years, journalists have been fired, imprisoned or even killed.

The DİHA news agency in southeastern Turkey boasts that the government has blocked its domain 46 times already. The agency reports on things and places that the world tends to ignore (YPS JIN as selected by Tomáš Doruška).

Turkish film festivals are often characterized by (self-)censorship, with the proud exception of the Documentarist festival, to whose team we are grateful for having recommended many of the films in our selection. There are few truly outstanding documentaries from Turkey, which we ascribe to the lack of independent production support. Not that there is a shortage of strong stories from the region (I Remember, Colony).

The Occupy Gezi protests in the summer of 2013 were an unprecedented eruption of creative thinking, intelligent resistance, and ever-present courage – excellent ingredients for the creation of a good film. Solidarity was everywhere. The streets came alive with humorous graffiti. Over time, the uprising has been recast into new forms, including memes on social networks – the tool of the revolt (Tornistan, to some extent also Callshop Istanbul).

Several of the selected films are based on observation. Their value lies in their unique poetic style and excellent filmmaking (e.g., Küpeli, Time Worm, Reed). In a sub-section, we briefly present documentary films that make use of animated collages and re-interpreted 8mm family films, combined with the filmmaker’s diary-like records and an audiovisual letter to the future (Ebb&Tide, Enclosure, To You).

The generalizations that happen in a short text such as this one (and in the selected documentaries) can be justified by the limits of the medium. Every generalization relativizes the size of the country: it is as far from Istanbul to Jihlava as it is from Istanbul to Cizre. And so, which Turkey you discover is up to you – the festivalgoer. Nothing can replace first-hand experience.

The section’s curators, Âkile Nazlı Kaya and Tomáš Doruška, wish you many inspirational cinematic experiences.





more articles from a section:  Theme

1.21Like the dog on the beach...American film historian Alice Lovejoy writes her remembrance of Karel Vachek, the remarkable Czech documentarist to whom we dedicate this English issue of dok.revue.Alice Lovejoy
1.21Every human being should get to wear comfy shoesThe Czech documentarist Karel Vachek was a chairperson of the jury at Yamagata international documentary film festival (YIDFF) in 2009. The board member of YIDFF and the former director of this festival, Asako Fujioka, has a remembrance of him smoking his pipe and going to the mountains with Japanese poet and filmmaker Yoshimasu Gozo to recite poetry to the skies.Asako Fujioka
1.21Never stop laughingPaolo Benzi, the Italian film producer and founder of the independent film production company Okta Film, describes for dok.revue how he met famous Czech documentary filmmaker Karel Vachek, who passed away last year. Paolo Benzi is also the main tutor of the Emerging producers in Ji.hlava IDFF.Paolo Benzi
1.21Nest in the bedroomPeter Hames, well-known British film historian and author of the book The Czechoslovak New Wave sent his remembrance to Karel Vachek to our magazine.Peter Hames
1.21Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightenedIn this English issue of dok.revue we have collected some remembrances to Karel Vachek, the respected Czech documentarist who died in December 2020 at the age of 80. One of the contributors is Olaf Möller, a well-known film theorist and critic collaborating with many renowned film magazines (Film Comment or Sight & Sound), film museums and festivals (e.g. Il Cinema Ritrovato or International Film Festival Rotterdam).Olaf Möller
2.20It comes right from the bellyIn this personal essay, a Danish sound designer Peter Albrechtsen remembers one of the world's greatest and most unique modern film composers, Jóhann Jóhannsson. This article was written in 2018, shortly after the Jóhannsson´s death, but has never been published.
1.20There’s more than one feminismA reflection on women documentarians inspired by Barbora Baronová’s book Women on WomenMartin Šrajer
1+2.19Emerging Czech female documentariansIs there a new tide of emerging female documentarians in Czech cinema? What’s fascinating about the work of Czech female filmmakers like Johana Ožvold, Greta Stocklassa or Viera Čákany?Will Tizard
1.18Exprmntl.cz Through Eyes of American Journalist Daniel WalberAmerican freelance critic Daniel Walber focuses on a bunch of Czech experimental movies which were screened at the 21st Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival in the Fascinations: Exprmntl.cz section.Daniel Walber
2.17Why Series SuckCritical essay about the phenomenon Quality TVHanjo Berressem, Nadine Boljkovac

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4.16DOK.REVUE
17. 10. 2016


from current issue:

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