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Coming soon: Immigrants and baby boomers

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 8/14/2009 12:00:00 AM | Emrah Güler

As Turkish cinema prepares to wake up from a three-month hibernation, Daily News will bring you the most anticipated movies for the coming season. This week, we take a look at female director Aslı Özge’s ‘Men on the Bridge,’ and Ahmet Boyacıoğlu’s directorial debut, “Black and White’

Don’t believe anything about the economic crisis affecting the film industry in Turkey, or that TV is killing cinema. Tens of film sets around Turkey prove otherwise. If you check the coming movies in the new season, you will see an impressive number of Turkish films awaiting their release dates.

Veteran filmmakers, new names, and well-known names trying their hands at cinema are all among the creators of the anticipated films in the coming months. We will bring you news from film sets, and hope to increase the hype for film enthusiasts in the coming weeks.

This week, we bring you two movies, one a fresh hit in national and international film festivals, and another one in its filming stage, directed by a name known and respected by filmmakers throughout Turkey.

‘Men on the Bridge,’ from Istanbul to Locarno

One anticipated film by a female Turkish director seems to have wowed audiences at last week’s Locarno Film Festival. Last year’s Best Turkish Film winner in the Istanbul International Film Festival, Aslı Özge’s “Köprüdekiler” (Men on the Bridge) is among the 17 contenders for the Filmmakers of the Present competition.

Aslı Özge knows the lives, hopes, aspirations and disappointments of a generation and a class stuck between rural and urban, of quiet lives and crushing chaos. Her first feature, “Ein bisschen April” (A Little Bit of April) filmed in Berlin and in German, featured three young men. With her second feature film, “Köprüdekiler,” she moves her camera to Istanbul, over another three men lost in migration.

The bridge in “Köprüdekiler” is the Bosphorus Bridge, the so-called border between Asia and Europe. And the men are the immigrants whose families have come to Istanbul in the hopes of better lives. Fikret sells roses, Umut is a taxi driver and Murat is a traffic policeman. The three live in the suburbs of Istanbul, and each unsuspectingly comes to the center of Istanbul, where everyday millions pass from one continent to another in endless rush hours.

With the exception of the policeman all the men in the film are portraying the real story of their own lives (Özge failed to get permission for a real policeman to act in her film). The stories of the three underdogs impressively blur the lines between fiction and reality. Be prepared to hear more about “Köprüdekiler” as the film travels from one festival to another, from Sarajevo to Toronto, and Montreal to London.

Baby boomers in ‘Black and White’

If you’re coming from Turkey’s dry but somehow inspirational capital city, Ankara, you will be familiar with two names associated with the city, especially for Turkey’s equivalent of the baby boomer generation: Ahmet Boyacıoğlu and Siyah Beyaz.

Boyacıoğlu is a revered name for film enthusiasts in Turkey. He’s the founder of the Ankara Cinema Association; organizer of the traveling film festival, the Festival on Wheels; representative of Turkey in Eurimages; a crucial name in Turkey’s Golden Boll Film Festival; and the unfaltering jury member and name covering various international film festivals for daily Radikal.

Siyah Beyaz (meaning Black and White) is one of the most famous bar/galleries of Ankara, nearly as old as modern Ankara itself. The bar is frequented by the capital’s artistic elite, the so-called baby boomers. The owner Faruk Sade is very aware of the bar’s image among the younger generations; that it’s commonly and irreverently referred to as the Prostate Bar, or the Dinosaur Bar.

Ahmet Boyacıoğlu gives Siyah Beyaz the leading role in his directorial debut (following an award-winning short film), called simply, Siyah Beyaz. The cast and the crew are a testament to the respect and admiration felt for one of Turkey’s ultimate cinema lovers. Director Özcan Alper, who impressed audiences and critics alike recently with his debut feature “Sonbahar” (Autumn), takes his place aside Boyacıoğlu as the assistant director. The cinematographer is Özgür Eken who was responsible for the beautiful photography in Semih Kaplanoğlu’s “Yumurta” (Egg) and “Süt” (Milk) places his camera over the old bar.

The acting hall of fame includes the veteran Tuncel Kurtiz, Erkan Can, Tanel Birsel, Nejat İşler, Şevval Sam, and Derya Alabora. The film puts the bar owner and the regulars of Siyah Beyaz in its center. As in real life, this is a place where everybody knows your name. The regulars are an idealist painter, a lawyer who has re-evaluated his priorities following a heart attack, a medical doctor going through a mid-life crisis, and the strong, independent business woman. As Boyacıoğlu himself puts it, “the film is about loneliness, growing old, friendship, solidarity, and that special bond you feel for Ankara.”

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