Istanbul Film Festival to honor veteran filmmakers

Istanbul Film Festival to honor veteran filmmakers

Emrah Güler - ISTANBUL
Istanbul Film Festival to honor veteran filmmakers

The Istanbul Film Festival will screen Atadeniz’s 1968 film “Maskeli 5ler” (The Masked 5), a rare Western in Turkish cinema, inspired by Hollywood’s 1928 classic “The Lone Ranger.” Film historian Giovanni Scognamillo describes the film as “a nostalgic return to the Hollywood patent series of the 30s and 40s.”

The biggest cinema event in Turkey, the Istanbul Film Festival, is getting ready to kick off this Friday, April 4, for a 16-day extravaganza of cinema featuring more than 200 films, four competitions and dozens of guests. Organized for the 34th time, the festival will honor five veteran names in filmmaking with its Cinema Honorary Award, presented at the opening gala on April 3. Here is a look at this year’s recipients of the Honorary Award.

Yılmaz Atadeniz is a veteran filmmaker, whose delightfully bizarre career in cinema spans over six decades. Having begun his career in editing, he later became a screenwriter, a director and eventually a producer. Atadeniz’s unique vision has brought some timeless cult movies to screen and he was a singular force in the rise of the fantastic Turkish cinema which dominated screens during the 1960s and 1970s.

Turkish cinema during this time was based on what could be called a “reimagining” of American comic books, cinema and pop culture. With no sense of time and place (Byzantines, Vikings and aliens in Istanbul was an outrageous example), these movies were true expressions of postmodernism at its best. The most popular of these fantastic heroes of the time proved to be “Kilink,” inspired by the Italian photo-comic character Killing, with Yılmaz Atadeniz directing and producing.

The Istanbul Film Festival will screen Atadeniz’s 1968 film “Maskeli 5ler” (The Masked 5), a rare Western in Turkish cinema, inspired by Hollywood’s 1928 classic “The Lone Ranger.” Film historian Giovanni Scognamillo describes the film as “a nostalgic return to the Hollywood patent series of the 30s and 40s.” The film, set during the American Civil War, had its sequel the same year, again by Atadeniz himself.

A ‘multi-instrumentalist’ for film scores

Many in Turkey will know legendary Cahit Berkay as the founder of the band Moğollar, one of the pioneers of Anatolian pop/rock in 1960s, a genre that blended Anatolian folk melodies with a rock formation and which reflected the changing dynamics of Turkey when migration from rural areas to urban cities became a definitive force.

Berkay, however, is also the name behind the memorable scores of more than 180 films, including the classic “Selvi Boylum Al Yazmalım” (The Girl with the Red Scarf), director Atıf Yılmaz’s adaptation of Kyrgyz writer Chinghiz Aitmatov’s short story, and 70 TV series. Berkay’s film scores are compiled in three different albums.

“Cahit Berkay’s film scores, specifically the ones he composed in the 60s and 70s, thoroughly reflect the spirit of the times,” wrote Taner Öngür, his fellow band mate in Moğollar. “Cahit and his band were right in the center of the Anatolian rock movement, a scene heavily influenced by psychedelic and progressive rock in the post-Beatles era. The fact that he is a multi-instrumentalist who can also play numerous traditional Turkish instruments formed the sound of his film scores.”

For a lack of a more cutting simile, Nebahat Çehre is often compared to the fictional character Benjamin Button, looking younger, or at least, looking much younger than her age, well into her seventies. Crowned Miss Turkey in 1960, and later competing in the Miss World and Miss Universe beauty pageants in 1965, Çehre began her acting career in her teens with 1962’s “Yaban Gülü” (The Wild Rose).

Çehre hasn’t stopped acting since then, enjoying a newfound popularity with younger generations with her roles in popular TV series, including the globally popular “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (Magnificent Century) and “Aşk-ı Memnu” (Forbidden Love). In the 1960s, her popularity was further fuelled with the tumultuous relationship she had with Yılmaz Güney, the famous actor, director and screenwriter. The Istanbul Film Festival will screen 1968’s “Seyyit Han,” Güney’s directorial debut in which Güney and Çehre play star-struck lovers in rural Turkey, a personal favorite of Çehre’s. 

An ‘actress of every genre’

A producer and close acquaintance of both Güney and Çehre, Abdurrahman Keskiner, wrote for the festival catalogue, “By playing every character from passive, innocent, fragile, sentimental women in melodramas, which was essentially the official genre of the Turkish cinema at the time, to warrior women in period films and comic book adaptations, to women trapped by traditions of semi-feudal relations, and ferocious females of fantastic films, she proved that she is an actress of every genre.”

Another veteran filmmaker, Safa Önal, will be among the recipient of the festival’s Cinema Honorary Award. In an active career spanning half-a-century, Önal’s screenplays have made him a record holder in the Guinness Book of World Records with 395 screenplays by a single person which have been put on film. He has also written more than 500 episodes for TV and took writing credits for 60 photo-comics, popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Önal has also directed close to 40 feature films and is one of the founding members of the Screenwriters Association, SEN-DER.

Süleyman Turan, the trusted sidekick of leading actors in many movies, has not stopped acting since his debut in “Beyaz Güvercin” (The White Dove) in 1963. Turan is a prolific artist, appearing as an actor in some 200 films, has taken writing credits in some of the classics of Turkish cinema like “Dönme Dolap” (The Carousel), and is also a successful comic-strip artist. 

“He is my essential actor. He is the ever-young old boy of the Turkish cinema and one of its treasures,” wrote Tunç Başaran, a filmmaker and frequent collaborator with Turan. “Our cinema should be proud of having an actor such as Süleyman Turan.” The Istanbul Film Festival will screen his 1970 “Dikkat Kan Aranıyor” (Attention! Blood is Wanted), in which Turan plays a disturbed man who has escaped from a mental institution. 

Check for the program of the festival that will run between April 4 and 19.