In the summer of 2016, Turkish helmer Mahmut Fazil Coskun was scouting locations for his latest film, a based-on-a-true-story satire about a coup attempt in 1963, when news broke of a failed plot against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
It was the sort of mordant coincidence that could have been pulled from “The Announcement,” Coskun’s third feature, which world premieres in Venice’s Horizons sidebar.
Playing out over the course of a single night in Istanbul, pic follows a group of disgruntled soldiers who seize a radio station in order to announce that their co-conspirators have toppled the government — a putsch that by dawn has fizzled out across the country.
While the same plotline in the hands of another helmer could’ve played out as a tense thriller or high-octane actioner, Coskun decided to make a different statement by showing the conspirators as they bungled through their minor parts in the country’s larger drama.
“What would happen if we don’t see any action?” he recalled asking himself. “I thought this could be a more interesting idea.”
“The Announcement” was inspired by diaries Coskun began reading in 2014, describing the real-life events depicted in the movie. The attempt to seize the radio station was treated as little more than a footnote in his reading, but the director saw in that small-bore story a chance to show “the power of ordinary people” who, while ostensibly written into the margins of the history books, “are making the real history.”
In the wake of the failed coup of 2016 — which quickly led to a wide-ranging crackdown by Erdogan — Coskun was forced to put production on hold, realizing that the climate was too sensitive for a film that might have been perceived as a commentary on current events.
Two years later, it is not an easy time for filmmakers in Turkey. The government’s broad clampdown has cast a shadow over artistic freedom, while the weakening lira has sent production costs soaring. After President Donald Trump announced the U.S. was doubling tariffs against Turkey in mid-August, an already battered currency went into a tailspin.
As the standoff between the two countries intensifies, Coskun confessed that he didn’t understand how the dispute — ostensibly over Turkey’s imprisonment of an American pastor — had grown so heated. “My thought is, ‘Please don’t have this conflict, because it affects the Turkish lira too much,” he said. “Please stop fighting!”