Can Turkish artists be international figures?

Can Turkish artists be international figures?

Can Turkish artists be international figures

Turkish actress Saadet Işıl Aksoy is starring in Italian director Sergio Castellitto’s ‘Born Twice,’ which features Penelope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, Jane Birkin and Mira Furlan. ABACAPRESS photo

Turkish actress Saadet Işıl Aksoy won the Best Actress award at the Sarajevo Film Festival five years ago with her debut feature “Yumurta” (Egg), the first film in director Semih Kaplanoğlu’s Yusuf trilogy. Now, the same city means something altogether different in her rise to international stardom.

Aksoy stars in Italian director Sergio Castellitto’s “Venuto al mondo” (Born Twice), which takes place in Sarajevo. Featuring an international cast including Penelope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, Jane Birkin and Mira Furlan.

Can Turkish artists be international figures

Saadet Işıl Aksoy. 

Having made its premiere last September at the Toronto International Film Festival, “Venuto al mondo” has now been released in Turkish theaters. The film, as well as Aksoy’s small but powerful role as the surrogate mother, has received good reviews. Aksoy also made headlines this week in the Turkish media, thanks to her role sharing the screen with Penelope Cruz, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s muse and the former love interest of Tom Cruise.

While we are used to seeing Turkish filmmakers win big, shiny awards in such giant film festivals like Cannes, Venice and Berlin, we are still surprised to see Turkish actors sharing screen time with international names in international productions. Murat Demir, a Turkish actor who was raised in the U.S., said in an interview, “The Turks are being cast in roles such as terrorists, fugitives, ugly or villainous characters. The stories that talk about the Turks as they are do not appear in Hollywood.” Demir has starred in independent movies like “The Art of a Bullet” and TV shows like “Passion.”
Whether there are diverse roles for Turks is one question, but why Turks can’t seem to find roles other than portraying Turks (such as Aksoy’s recent role) is another. Last October, Hollywood actor Turhan Bey’s death was covered in the Turkish media with “Turkish Hollywood actor” attached to his name. Bey starred with such Hollywood stars as Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn and John Wayne in the 1940s, and assumed the nickname “Turkish Delight” thanks to his exotic look.

Cumbul, a self-proclaimed international star

The Turkish media might have been quick to claim Bey as one of their own, but other than his nickname and the nationality of his father, there wasn’t anything that made him Turkish. It’s not uncommon for the Turkish media to make news, associating Turkish names with hit movies as long as they are in the credits. One of the bad guys in Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” is played by an actor named Oran Gürel. This giant of a man has a few seconds in the movie, but he made the news in Turkey.

There was also Erol Sander, a German TV actor with Turkish origins (hence the Turkish name). Sander’s name was claimed as one of our own when he played the Persian Prince in Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” in 2004, only to be forgotten in a couple of weeks.

Perhaps the most famous Turkish name in international film and television is the veteran stage and screen actor Haluk Bilginer. He has starred in Hollywood productions like the 1987 Warren Beatty comedy “Ishtar” and 2001’s “Buffalo Soldiers,” where he played a Turkish Mafioso. However, the British TV audience will remember him as the loveable womanizer Mehmet Osman in the 1980’s British soap “EastEnders.”

Although not in any Hollywood production or British TV series, one final name deserves mention. Actress, TV hostess and short-lived singer Meltem Cumbul was a trending topic on Twitter last January when she was introduced as “an international star” and abruptly took the stage in the Golden Globes. Cumbul didn’t issue any awards, not even introducing a film or a category. She just stood on stage in utter self-confidence and made a speech, ending it with words from Atatürk. And in Turkish.
Thanks to Aksoy, Cumbul is no longer the closest we have to an international star.