Director, actor and poet Yilmaz Erdogan made a big splash in 2001 with his first feature, “Vizontele,” a hit comedy about TV arriving in an isolated southeastern Turkish township in 1974 and becoming a symbol for the struggle between secular and religious groups for whom it was a slap in the face of Islamic tradition.
Now that Turkish television, mainly its soaps, has become a booming business worth an estimated $130 million in foreign sales, Erdogan is having second thoughts about coming out in its favor, but only for purely practical reasons.
“The TV industry is going good; but that’s not so good for shooting movies because actors and crews are always busy,” he quips.
That’s not to say local talent and crews didn’t find time for Erdogan’s latest, and most ambitious, feature, “The Butterfly’s Dream,” which is Turkey’s submission for the foreign-language film Oscar.
Produced by Necati Akpinar’s BKM, “Dream” had a long gestation. The screenwriting process took seven years, pre-production took two years. And all the while the effort was for the film to have international-level production values and a narrative that could really resonate with the home crowd but also click beyond national confines.
To that end, the pic’s original 138-minute running time has been trimmed down to 123 in hopes this will help bring about a U.S. sale.
“Dream,” which is set in World War II-era impoverished Turkey, is about the bond between two young poets forced to work in coal mines. They both fall sick with tuberculosis and fall in love with the same woman, an aristocrat’s daughter, played by star Belcim Bilgin, who is also Erdogan’s wife.
“It’s a rare case of a Turkish film that strikes a middle ground between mainstream movie and quality cinema,” Bilgin says.
They are hoping “Dream” could open doors for the Turkish film industry internationally.
Meanwhile, Erdogan is working on his next project, which is set in Germany and based on a true story related to the Berlin Wall.
Not surprisingly, it is being mounted as a Turkish/German co-production.