Not a good month for women in cinema

Not a good month for women in cinema

Emrah Güler - ANKARA
Not a good month for women in cinema The days leading up to March 8, International Women’s Day, and the days in the subsequent week see a plethora of events, from exhibitions to panels and film screenings to campaigns. All this to raise awareness on issues ranging from violence against women to women’s representation in the media.

March has also been the month for the last couple of years when some producers, directors and studios in Turkey release women-centric feature films, hoping to join in the discussions surrounding women. Apparently, 2016 will not be one of those years. A quick look at the Turkish films playing in theaters right now (and in March) will show tired old clichés repeated, with many stereotypes about women hogging the screens.

Director Faruk Aksoy’s “Ali Kundilli 2” is the prime example of a male filmmaker asking the age-old question “What does a woman want?” in all its crudeness. The film is the sequel to last year’s “Ali Kundilli,” which showcased the mishaps of yet another everyday man which evolved from popular six-second videos on the social media platform Vine into box office success.

The first film might have been forgivable and forgettable in its depiction of women, especially the female lead, in portraying the love interest of its titular character. The second film, by making the subject of pregnancy its focus, however, becomes an exercise in misogyny, repeating every misconception and stereotype by men about pregnancy, pregnant women and motherhood.

“Ali Kundilli 2” plays on the mood swings of the leading female character, İlknur, to maximum exaggeration to garner its laughs. We are told early on that İlknur will go through complications that are seen in just one in every 7 billion pregnancies, a dramatic devise to justify the over-the-top mood swings and cravings she will experience throughout the film.

Fresh-faced love interest vs. the fallen women

At first glance, directors Murat Kaman and Defne Deliormanlı’s “Kaçma Birader” is not hard on its female characters, perhaps thanks to one of the directors being a woman. While the ensemble of women might not be multi-layered and, at times, realistic, the same can be said of the men in the film. That said, some old clichés slip into the story every once in a while.

The film follows a family traveling to Istanbul, more specifically to Beyoğlu, the heart of Istanbul’s night-haunts, from a small town in Anatolia, to find their son. When the setting is the night-haunts, the inevitable sex workers, some women by birth, others by choice, pop into the story, mostly for laughs from the male audience. To give credit to the film, the characters of the mother and sister make up, being strong, no-nonsense women.

Box office comedies in Turkish cinema have been following the same formula for a decade now: The ordinary-looking everyday man finds himself in a string of unlucky events, often involving the mafia and a fresh-faced love interest. Beautiful women, whether an integral part of the plot or as a sideshow, take screen time, serving as eye candy for the targeted demo of male audience.

Other comedies that fall into this category will follow in March. Actor-cum-director Şafak Sezer’s mafia spoof “Kolpaçino: 3. Devre” will offer scenes with ample women in various stages of undress. Beautiful women will be served as rewards, and a lack of them as punishment in the film directed, written by and starring Sezer. A bonus for the loyal male audience of the crude comedy series will be homophobic jokes.

In Murat Şenöy’s “Şeytan Tüyü,” the leading character Metin will try to settle down following a career in facilitating sex workers. Here, the opposing characters of the virtuous and the fallen women will take center, with the audience rooting for pure love and enjoying laughs with the scenes of the sex workers. 

It’s not a good month for female characters in Turkish cinema, and it’s an even more dismal picture for women in comedies.