×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Turkish Directors Find Homes at Berlin, Other Global Film Festivals

Political turbulence is making it tough for filmmakers in Turkey with ambitions to make movies that can travel globally. But despite many impediments, Turkish auteurs are still managing to maintain a significant presence on the festival circuit.

The past year has seen auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan back at Cannes with “The Wild Pear Tree”; newcomer Omar Atay’s “Brothers” bowed to positive reviews at Karlovy Vary; Tolga Karacelik’s “Butterfiles” make a splash at Sundance, where it won the Grand Jury prize; and Mahmout Fazil Coskun’s biting “The Announcement,” about a failed 1963 Turkish army coup, scooped the Special Jury nod in Venice’s Horizons section, among other outings.

Kicking off 2019 with an auspicious start is Emin Alper’s third feature, “A Tale of Three Sisters,” competing for a Berlin Golden Bear. Alper’s politically charged drama “Frenzy,” set in a dystopian Istanbul, won Venice’s Jury Special Prize in 2015.

Alper’s new film unfolds in his native central Anatolia where three sisters, who had been assigned as foster children to affluent city families, are made to return to their biological father’s house in his poor village. There they oscillate between solidarity and competition as they attempt to go back to the city while contending with decisions being made by the men around them.

“This film is a bit different compared with my previous films, both of which had a political context,” Alper says, noting that those “were both allegories about the politics of Turkey,” while “Sisters” “is much more personal.”

Paradoxically, while Alper’s first two films, the “political ones,” tapped into Turkey’s public funding, “Sisters,” which went into development after the country’s 2016 failed coup attempt, did not.

“It’s not that this film is dangerous in terms of story,” he says. It’s because of my previous films…. because I’m known as a sort of opposition filmmaker,” Alper adds. So producers Nadir Operli, who says the “Sisters” project was “blacklisted,” and Muzzaffer Yildirim had to find private equity and European co-producers.

“Three Sisters” is a co-production between Liman Film (Turkey), NuLook Production (Turkey), Komplizen Film (Germany), Circe Films (Netherlands) and Horsefly Prods. (Greece).

Operli is actually quite upbeat about prospects for Turkish cinema going forward.

New Turkish film legislation in the works — it’s been approved by parliament, but must clear more hurdles — which Operli hopes will go into effect later this year “could bring big changes for the industry,” he says. A key aspect is it will offer a 30% incentive to foreign productions that are fully or partially shot in Turkey, which is crucial “in terms of being able to attract more co-productions,” notes Operli.

The “Sisters” producer laments that, unlike in most of Europe, Turkey’s new film law doesn’t force the country’s broadcasters to invest in film. More generally, Turkish producers don’t get much TV coin because TV screen time is dominated by the country’s local skeins which, incidentally, have also conquered the world.

Meanwhile, 2018 can be considered a banner year for Turkish movies at the home box office where the domestic market share was a whopping 62.9% market share of admissions with U.S. titles accounting for a mere 27.9%  of ticket sales. “Avengers: Infinity War,” which came in a number six on the 2018 Turkish box office chart, was the only Hollywood blockbuster in the top 10.

But local industry critics contend that the problem is the Turkish box office is dominated by local comedies that don’t travel, while quality/arthouse fare is suffering.

In terms of mere numbers, Turkish production is buoyant with more than 200 local features made last year, roughly 25 of which didn’t get theatrical distribution, according to figures from analyst Deniz Yavuz at local film data compiler Antrakt.

But diminished government funding — the culture ministry supported only 22 films in 2018 — and the double-digit drop in value of the Turkish lira are causing budgets to shrink and productions values to deteriorate.

Also, the country is becoming increasingly polarized between pro-government producers, who tend to be those who just want to keep feeding escapist fare to local audiences, and those who oppose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and are making movies with more gravitas and a more global mindset. Not everyone, however, falls in one of these two camps.

But “a young generation of filmmakers is emerging,” points out prominent Turkish film industry multi-hyphenate Ahmet Boyacioglu. “Every year there is an unknown director [from Turkey] who makes a really good film that travels to a festival,” observes the veteran fest programmer, producer, director and promoter. “In fact,” he says, somewhat like in neighboring Greece, “the economic and political crisis could even help us to make better films.”

 

More Film

  • Billie Holiday (1915-1959, born Eleanora Fagan)

    Billie Holiday Documentary Draws Buyers, Concord Boards Project

    Concord, successor to the Billie Holiday Estate, has boarded James Erskine’s documentary “Billie,” which tracks the singer’s life. Altitude Film Sales has revealed sales to several territories. Also joining the film, now in post-production, is the Brazilian colorization artist Marina Amaral. Most of the filmed and still images that exist of Holiday are in black [...]

  • My Extraordinary Summer With Tess review

    Film Review: 'My Extraordinary Summer With Tess'

    Winner of a special mention from the Berlinale Generation KPlus’ adult jury, the family-friendly, light drama “My Extraordinary Summer With Tess” is straightforward youth cinema with surprising emotional depth. Based on a prize-winning novel by Anna Woltz, a beloved Dutch writer of work for young readers, it explores family relationships and emphasizes the importance of [...]

  • UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report: Women, Minorities

    Hollywood Diversity Gains in TV but Falls Short in Movies

    Minorities and women have registered gains in several key areas of television but women continue to lag in movies, according to a report issued Thursday by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “My basic take is that TV is improving more for minorities and women than film,” said Dr. Darnell [...]

  • Ghost Fleet review

    Film Review: 'Ghost Fleet'

    The revelatory documentary “Ghost Fleet” condemns the modern-day slave labor fueling the Thai fishing industry while focusing on the work of Bangkok-based advocacy organization Labor Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN), a group dedicated to ending slavery at sea. Combining chilling testimony from formerly enslaved men, some wincingly arty recreations of their ordeals, and on-the-ground footage [...]

  • WGA West Logo

    WGA Plans March 25 Member Vote on Talent Agency Rules

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America plan a March 25 vote for members to decide whether to implement tough new restrictions on how Hollywood talent agencies as operate as agents for writer clients. The vote comes as the guild is in the midst of pitched negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents to renew [...]

  • Netflix Buys Chinese Sci-fi Hit 'The

    Netflix Buys Chinese Sci-fi Hit 'The Wandering Earth'

    Netflix has bought rights to “The Wandering Earth,“ the smash hit film pitched as China’s first mainstream sci-fi movie. The movie was the sleeper hit of Chinese New Year. It opened in fourth position on Feb. 5 but climbed to the top spot and has not yet relinquished it. After 14 days in theaters, the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan's Hitman Drama 'Silver Bear' Gets Director

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan’s “The Silver Bear” finds a director, biopic “Running for My Life” is in the works, Fox is using new trailer compliance software and the 14-hour “La Flor” gets distribution. DIRECTOR ATTACHMENT Gerard McMurray, director of “The First Purge,” will write and direct Michael B. Jordan’s thriller “The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content