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Grassroots struggle in the Black Sea highlands

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 2/13/2010 12:00:00 AM | MICHAEL WYATT

Rüya Köksal, director of 'An Argonaut in Ordu,' and her partner, cinematographer Aydın Kudu, talk about their film and its intended impact in increasing public awareness on environmental and conservation issues

With fire in her eyes and determination in her voice, Rüya Köksal, the director of “An Argonaut in Ordu,” launches readily and energetically into a lively discussion about her work.

The conversation has a sense of urgency – a feeling that something big is about to happen. And if Köksal and her partner, Aydın Kudu, the film’s cinematographer, have their way, something big will happen.

Köksal and Kudu have great ambitions of bringing about social awareness on a massive scale. “An Argonaut in Ordu,” which is showing at this year’s !f Istanbul AFM International Independent Film Festival, is yet another example of how the duo’s projects are designed to exhort audiences to stand up to the destructive changes that are currently underway throughout the Black Sea region.

Asked to say a bit about herself, Köksal said she studied linguistics at university after attending an American school, all the while watching a lot of films. She started out writing, but later told herself, “There’s got to be a better way to say what I’ve got to say.”

Köksal found her voice in documentary filmmaking with “Forsaken Path,” the duo’s first film, in 2006. Shot in the Black Sea highlands, the movie follows the Çepni tribe and its fight to retain traditions and customs in the face of ever-encroaching modernity and urbanization.

Both Köksal and Kudu are deeply attached to the Black Sea region, where both have roots. Their subsequent film, the award-winning “The Shore,” which was successful in attracting international recognition of their work, explores the trauma of a community forced to suffer the imposition of a highway along its coastline.

It is perhaps “An Argonaut in Ordu,” however, that is most successful in driving home the argument that grassroots campaigns can truly make a difference. The film follows 67-year old Enis Ayar as he successfully pursues his conservation efforts in the coastal province of Ordu.

Asked if they have a particular statement they wish to make with their work, both Köksal and Kudu emphatically said they want to show audiences that the modernization they are campaigning against has the potential to alter the country forever. “This is not development,” Kudu said. “Turkey will not be unique; it will be like every other country.”

Openly contemptuous of what they regard as efforts by government and special-interest groups to deface the country, the filmmakers remain full of optimism that the onslaught of modernization and urbanization can be tamed through public awareness and intervention.

In this, both Köksal and Kudu pledge to continue making films about meaningful and important subjects. “An Argonaut in Ordu,” they say, “shows it is possible to bring about change – it can be done.”

Being included at the !f Film Festival is particularly important to Köksal, not only for the exposure to her work and to related environmental issues, but also because, she says, “the media must do something, too.”

Film is an especially valuable medium through which to educate audiences because interesting visuals are presented and a person can simply sit and absorb the experience, Köksal said: “You either just watch, or you do something. Now there are no excuses; now you know what’s going on.”

Watch the trailer of “An Argonaut in Ordu” by clicking the “Videos” tab on our Web site, www.hurriyetdailynews.com.

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