The Space Between: A Panorama of Cinema in Turkey is the largest retrospective of films from Turkey to be presented in the United States. The retrospective is produced by The Moon and Stars Project of The American Turkish Society and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The program includes more than 25 films and runs from Friday, April 27 through Thursday, May 10, presenting award winning Turkish films from the 1950s to the present.
Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Richard Peña said, “Turkey has an extraordinarily rich cinematic tradition that, despite the growing importance of that country on the world stage, has remained largely unknown to even the most dedicated American film goers. This 29-film series focuses especially on the many socially-engaged works--works often made under difficult and even dangerous conditions--that offered a counterpoint to Turkey's prolific commercial cinema.”
The New York premiere of Can (2011) directed by Rait Çelikezer, opens May 7 at 8:40 p.m. The film was Turkey’s first ever entry at the Sundance Film Festival, receiving the “Special Jury Prize for Artistic Vision”. This modern day love story, based in Istanbul, relates a heart wrenching tale of a young couple faced with infertility, who plot to illegally buy a child. Their plan appears to be successful until the wife finds herself incapable of accepting the child as her own. The Closing Night film, Özcan Alper’s The Future Lasts Forever (2011), will screen on May 10 and is the story of an Istanbul music student who travels the country to record traditional music and confront her past.
Other films chosen for the rare retrospective show how Turkish cinema, like the country, embraces both the East and the West. The filmmakers are influenced by American and European traditions while incorporating ideas from Egyptian – and more recently - Iranian cinema. Ye?ilçam (“Green pine”) is a metonym for the Turkish film industry, similar to Hollywood. The name is derived from Ye?ilçam Street in Istanbul where many actors, directors, and crew members were based. As in Italy and Japan, the existence of a thriving popular cinema inspired filmmakers to create more personal works. Several of the filmmakers moved back and forth between Ye?ilçam and more personal projects.
Ye?ilçam’s heyday was from the 1950s – 1970s, when 250 – 350 films were produced. The retrospective features notable films from this era including O Beautiful Istanbul (1966) by Atif Yilmaz, a bittersweet comedy about the chance friendship between a failed, but wise street photographer and a peasant girl, who has run away to Istanbul to become an actress. Other films from that period include Metin Erksan’s Revenge of the Snakes (1962), one of the first examples of social realism through its depiction of social injustices and economic hardships faced by a poor farmer and Dry Summer (1964) the bitter struggle between two brothers set in a rural farming community. Dry Summer won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival and signaled to the film world that Turkey was an important player on the international stage.
Films by director Yilmaz Güney, who was one of the most iconic movie stars in Turkey in the 1970s (later to be imprisoned and forced to go abroad), include Elegy (1971) depicting the lives of four smugglers juxtaposed with the quiet determination of a woman doctor and Hope (1970) where a poor carriage driver invests all his hope in lottery tickets. One of Güney’s darkest films, The Road (1982) is a co-effort scripted and monitored by Güney from prison with the help of ?erif Gören. It tells the story of five prisoners who are given one-week leave to see their families. This “road movie” was smuggled out of the country and singled out for awards by the London Critics Circle, the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics and Golden Palm Award at Cannes. Another director of the Güney school is Ali Özgentürk, whose film Hazal (1979) shows the despair of rural life when a recently widowed woman is forced by her in-laws to marry her deceased husband’s twelve-year-old brother.
The program also presents the city of Istanbul as a beautiful, yet at times evil place, where dreams collide. The earliest of these films is Three Friends (1958) directed by Memduh ?n .It is a story of three young men living in a dilapidated mansion. They befriend a blind girl and plot how they will find a way to pay for surgery that will allow her to see again,
My Cinemas (1990) features the work of three women: director Gülsün Karamustafa, writer Füruzan, and star Hülya Av?ar. A young woman looks to escape poverty by losing herself in the movies. Don’t Let Them Shoot the Kite (1989) directed by Tunç Ba?aran is a cult classic. It is a prison melodrama centered on women in an Istanbul prison from different walks of life and a little boy who grows up among them. In Somersault in a Coffin (1996), by Dervi? Zaim, the Bosphorus is the city’s showpiece and those living on its margins tell their stories.
The literature of Turkey is captured on film with Motherland Hotel (1987) based on a novel by Yusuf Atilgan. Director Ömer Kavur’s dark drama of loneliness and obsession captures a mysterious woman’s promise to a lonely hotel keeper that causes his mental breakdown. Kavur was one of the first generation of directors coming from a film school background. He also directed The Secret Face(1991) based on “The Black Book” by Nobel Prize winning author Orhan Pamuk, which received the Best Film award at the Istanbul Film Festival and the Montreal New Cinema Festival. Atif Yimaz’s The Girl with the Red Scarf (1977) inspired by Kyrgyz writer Cengiz Aytmatov, is a love story about a man who leaves his family only to come back years later demanding his wife and child return to him.
The best Turkish auteur cinema can offer is Climates (2006) by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Cited as a masterpiece at the Cannes Festival, the climates of two towns on opposite ends of Turkey are the backdrop for the tumultuous relationship between the main characters.
The Space Between: A Panorama of Cinema in Turkey will feature Q & A’s with stars after the screenings as well as a panel discussion “The Space Between: The Trajectory of Cinema in Turkey” to be held at the Walter Reade Theater on Sunday, April 29 at 2:45PM. All films are in Turkish with English subtitles and will be shown at the Walter Reade and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.
The retrospective is made possible through the generosity of lead sponsor Chobani and the company's charitable arm, the Shepherd’s Gift Foundation, as well as other sponsors, Ramerica International and The Marmara-Manhattan. The program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by a generous grant from Ramerica Foundation. The organizers would like to extend special thanks to Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Consulate General of Turkey in New York.
Tickets are on sale both at the box office and on-line Thursday. Discounts are available for students, seniors and Film Society members. Read more about The Film Society of Lincoln Center.