A success story from Turkey's Arslanköy to Spain
MERSİN – Doğan News AgencyLong before she came to Madrid, Mersin villager Ümmiye Koçak had already made herself famous thanks to her theatrical exploits and cinematic talent. Since directing and appearing in an ad with arguably one of the most recognized people on the planet – Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo – Koçak has been experiencing a new degree of stardom.
Koçak said she owed her fame to working hard, adding, “Becoming famous at this age is the result of hard work and pursuing my dreams without fear,” Koçak recently said. “When you work, you get a return for it. I worked hard, too, and advise everyone to work hard. People should know themselves first and then others. They should dream and follow [their dreams] slowly. My mother always used to say, ‘Haste makes waste.’ I did it now and have the fruits to show for it. This is a great happiness.”
Koçak is the founder of the Arslanköy Women’s Theater Group in the southern province of Mersin’s Arslanköy village, as well as the director of the film “Yün Bebek” (Wool Doll), which focuses on violence against women.
Most recently, however, 60-year-old Koçak directed and appeared in the ad with Ronaldo for Türk Telekom.
Koçak said she got involved with the project after receiving a call a few months ago. “I received a call and they said that it was an ad project for Telekom. I said ‘yes’ and made talks with them. Suddenly, I found myself in a huge family. We went together to Madrid. I thought that a small scene on television would be very easy to produce. But I saw that it was not at all. There were more than 100 people working on the project and each of them had a different mission. They taught me what to do. It was my first ad shoot,” Koçak said.
Speaking about her dialogue with Ronaldo, Koçak said everything was very nice with him but they were not able to communicate to each other.
“We only laughed and hugged each other tightly. We were like a mother and son. If I receive a new proposal, I would love to accept it again because I like it so much. This was what I wanted. As Turkish society, we embrace everybody,” she said.
Continue making theater
Speaking of her future projects, Koçak said the following:
“I want my film ‘Yün Bebek’ [Wool Doll] to be aired on a TV channel. We made this film with women in three meters of snow in a village. I also want to shoot the second installment of this film. From now on, all I want is to reach wider audiences via theater. We want municipalities to invite us as part of a project; any municipality can do it. I call on them all: please invite us. I want this theater to survive,” she said.
Koçak said frequently receives invitations from educational institutions.
“I am invited by universities. I tell young people my experiences. It was my dream to become a role model and teach young people. I have a newly written play; it is about education like my other plays, but this time it is about women, their life in the village and farming. I think this play will make an impact. We are farmers but we unfortunately ask our neighbors about everything. We need to raise awareness about farming just like everything.”
Born in 1957 in a village in Adana, Koçak was unable to continue her education after primary school in a family with 10 siblings. After completing primary school, she read many books for her own self-development, the first and most crucial being “The Mother” by Maxim Gorky.
Koçak moved to the village of Arslanköy after getting married, and there she formed the “Arslanköy Women’s Theater Group” in 2001 to raise awareness about the lives of women in rural areas.
In 2006, Koçak performed the play “Flowers of Longing” at the Sabancı International Adana Theater Festival. Saving money she earned by working in the field, she wrote and directed a film, titled “Yün Bebek” (Wool Doll), which was about violence against women. The premiere of the movie was held at the 49th Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival. She also won the Best Eurasian Actress in Cinema Award with the movie at the New York Eurasian Film Festival.
The mother of three children, Koçak continues to live in Arslanköy with her family.