Female filmmakers making Turkish cinema proud

Female filmmakers making Turkish cinema proud

Emrah Güler
Female filmmakers making Turkish cinema proud


“There is oppression of women and violations of their rights across the globe,” said Melek Özman, festival coordinator for Filmmor International Women’s Film Festival on Wheels, in a recent press conference announcing the program. “There is also women’s resistance across the globe. And we wanted to draw attention to women’s resistance. We see violence against women on tabloids and TV series, but we don’t see their resistance. We will show women’s resistance in the festival.”

The 13th Filmmor International Women’s Film Festival on Wheels, dedicated exclusively to films by women and about women, will kick off on March 13 in Istanbul. The festival will then travel to six provinces, including Nevşehir, Bodrum, Diyarbakır and Adana before finishing its program on April 19 in İzmir.

“We will screen films from as diverse countries as Mexico and India, and 17 from Turkish cinema,” festival coordinator Ülkü Songül said at the press conference. “We are planning a modest opening, with the sales from the tickets going to women and children in the refugee camps in Kobane and Şengal [Sinjar in northern Iraq]. There will be a festival march on March 13 [in Istanbul].”

The Filmmor Women’s Festival will feature 61 films, all by woman filmmakers, from 25 countries. Special sections will feature the works of Margarethe von Trotta, one of the leading names in the New German Cinema movement, as well as Iranian documentary director Nahid Persson Sarvestani.

Documentary from Independent Women’s Initiative

The closing of the festival will feature the announcement of the winners of the now-traditional Altın Bamya (Golden Okra) Awards, handed out to the most sexist cinema and TV. Another award this year will be the Purple Camera Promising Woman Filmmaker award, handed out during the opening ceremony.

The opening film will be “Arkadaşımı Merak Ediyorum” (I am Worried About My Friend), a collective film made by the Bağımsız Kadın İnisiyatifi (Independent Women’s Initiative), which takes its title from a campaign that started during the 2013 Gezi protests for the violation of rights under custody. The documentary follows the stories of four women taken into custody during the protests in İzmir.

Turkey might have an embarrassing track record in terms of violence against women or wage equality, but when it comes to cinema, women proudly take their place next to male filmmakers. Last year, many of the country’s award-winning films and favorites among audience and critics both at home and abroad were made by woman filmmakers.

Take Çiğdem Vitrinel’s sophomore feature “Fakat Müzeyyen Bu Derin Bir Tutku” (But Müzeyyen, That’s the Deepest Desire), a loose adaptation of İlhami Algör’s novella of the same name. Its female director and co-writer, along with another female writer Ceyda Aşar, take the point of view of a male protagonist, asking the age-old question, what do women want? Last year’s “Deniz Seviyesi” (Across the Sea) is another female-driven movie, in fact, with two female directors, Esra Saydam and Nisan Dağ.


Women co-directing in Turkish cinema

“Deniz Seviyesi” recently won the Audience Award for Narrative Feature at the Slamdance Awards, as well six awards, including best director, in the Altın Koza (Golden Boll) Film Festival. The film follows its female leading character, a married and pregnant Turkish woman living in New York, as she heads to Turkey with her American husband, only to go through an unexpected journey with a former lover.

“Deniz Seviyesi” was not the only film last year co-directed by two women. Zeynep Dadak and Merve Kayan’s “Mavi Dalga” (The Blue Wave) was another award winner, winning best first film and screenplay awards at the Golden Orange Film Festival. The film is a coming-of-age story in a small city, exploring its teen characters through the leading female character.

Another collaboration last year was “Kumun Tadı” (Seaburners), directed by Melisa Önel and written by Feride Çiçekoğlu, the screenwriter of the classic “Uçurtmayı Vurmasınlar” (Don’t Let Them Shoot the Kite) of 1989. Set in a coastal town in Black Sea, the film is a melancholic look at its two characters, a Turkish truck driver and a foreign botanist. “Kumun Tadı” is also set to screen in the Filmmor Women’s Festival.

Included in the program is also the award-winning “Ziazan,” the directorial debut of the acclaimed actress Derya Durmaz. The short film follows a 4-year-old Armenian girl secretly traveling across the border to Turkey in her uncle’s luggage. The film won the special jury prize at the South-East European Film Festival in Paris, SEE à Paris, where it had enjoyed its world premiere.

Check www.filmmor.org for the complete program.