Turkish cinema takes on Venice
Emrah Güler - ANKARATurkish cinema has become a regular fixture in the Venice International Film Festival for almost a decade now. The festival will run its 72nd edition Sept. 2-21, and will have cinephiles talking about Turkish cinema during its course once again. The line-up will feature a Turkish film competing for the coveted Golden Lion and another for the Lion of the Future award, given to a first work. A restored version of a classic from Turkish cinema will also meet the audience and a famed museum in Istanbul will be the central theme of a British production. And then, a Turkish filmmaker will be a festival guest as one of the jury members.
Young director Emin Alper’s film was one impressive debut: His first feature, “Tepenin Ardı” (Beyond the Hill), instantly became a favorite in the festival circuit in 2012, winning as many as 20 awards, including the Cagliari and Best First Feature Film Special Mention in Berlin International Film Festival. The family and feudal drama, unfolding slowly in the hills of central Anatolia, made further headlines when the film could secure no more than seven theaters for its release in Turkey.
The sophomore work of an artist – especially if the first one has been a great one – is always anticipated eagerly and received with a certain scrutiny. It seems Alper doesn’t need to worry about this, as his second feature, “Abluka” (Frenzy), is among the 21 films competing for the Golden Lion in September. The film tells the story of two brothers trying to reconnect after two decades in a suffocating Istanbul defined by political games.
Palme d’Or winners at Venice
“Abluka” will compete with Russian director and Golden Lion winner Alexander Sokurov’s “Francofonia,” Laurie Anderson’s “Heart of a Dog” and Atom Egoyan’s “Remember,” among others. The other Turkish film in the line-up, to be screened in the International Film Critics’ Week and competing for the Lion of the Future award, is newcomer Senem Tüzen’s “Ana Yurdu” (Motherland). The family drama, starring Esra Bezen Bilgin and Nihal Koldaş, is a look at three generations of women in rural Turkey.
Oscar-winning Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón is the president of the jury for the main competition. Among the nine-member jury that includes actress Diane Kruger, Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski and Italian director Francesco Munzi, is Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the winner of 2014 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Another Palme d’Or winner from Turkey, late Yılmaz Güney’s classic “Umut” (Hope), will be among the 21 films restored for the Venice Classics section. Four of the films were selected by director Bertrand Tavernier, this year’s recipient for the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award.
Festival goers will get a glimpse into today’s Istanbul in British director Grant Gee’s “Innocence of Memories,” a documentary on the Museum of Innocence, a museum created by Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s Nobel literature laureate with an eponymous book of the same title. Pamuk is credited as a co-writer on the film, which will be screened in the Venice Days section.
Lions of the Future, coming from Turkey
Director Tüzen might be the closest to an award come September, as the Lion of the Future, or the Luigi De Laurentiis award, has been given to a Turkish film for the last six years. Seren Yüce’s “Çoğunluk” (Majority), with its accurate portrayal of Turkey’s urban middle-class sensibilities, won the award in 2010. Then, in 2012, director Ali Aydın won with his debut feature, “Küf” (Mold), the heart-breaking story of a father’s quest to find his son missing for 18 years that was screened in the International Film Critics’ Week.
The same year, another jury alum, internationally-acclaimed female director Yeşim Ustaoğlu’s “Araf” (Somewhere in Between) was included into the Orrizonti (Horizons) section of the festival. The film was a coming-of-age story, featuring small lives and big dreams through a love triangle.
Another coming-of-age story competed for the Golden Lion last year, but went home with the Special Jury Prize and a Best Actor award for his 11-year-old actor, Doğan İzci. Kaan Müjdeci’s “Sivas” told of a friendship between its young protagonist and his dog on the steppes of central Anatolia. Last year also saw award-winning Turkish-German director Fatih Akın’s historical drama on the 1915 Armenian genocide, “The Cut,” compete for the Golden Lion and win a Special Mention award. Venice awaits Turkish cinema.