Dissatisfaction with the urban existence is the overriding theme of most Turkish films in the new millennium. Women filmmakers, however, are more analytical and confrontational in addressing the political wounds, the class differences and the social and economic situations. Unlike their male counterparts who usually mystify the countryside in one-dimensional voyages, they use the countryside as a conduit through which characters confront their predicaments.
Yeşim Ustaoğlu is the leading woman filmmaker of the New Turkish Cinema, a movement that was started in the late 1990s by young and independent fi lmmakers in search of new economic, aesthetic and thematic models in interpreting Turkish national and personal identity. Starting with her first feature, İz (Traces), a psychological thriller about a disillusioned police officer, she has challenged the loss of collective memory and the impending sense of guilt. Her second fi lm, Güneşe Yolculuk (Journey to the Sun) (1999) contested the offi cial ideology of »One Nation, One Language, One Religion«, and the third, Bulutlari Beklerken (Waiting for the Clouds, 2004), questioned the offi cial history regarding the crimes against religious minorities while interrogating collective memory, the role of language in defi ning identity and the meaning of home, homeland and foreigner. With her fourth fi lm, Pandora’nın Kutusu (Pandora’s Box), Ustaoğlu explored modernism and the feeling of entrapment in tradition, while questioning memory and belonging, issues Turkish society has not been reconciled with, according to Ustaoğlu.
Pelin Esmer’s fi rst feature 11’e 10 Kala (10 to 11) reveals the evolution/erosion of the city of Istanbul, condemned to erase its memory to adapt to modernity, through the eyes of two characters in the margins, an incurable collector and his building superintendent. As their surroundings collapse in the name of progress (to construct new, so-called »earthquake-resistant« architecture), the two men, despite diff erences of age, status and background, bond over a common destiny to preserve the collective memory of the city and the archives of their time.
Belmin Söylemez’s first feature, Şimdiki Zaman (Present Tense), mirrors a similar landscape of demolitions, the results of quick riches schemes that prioritize shopping malls and boutique hotels over historical cinema halls and city parks with the policies of a progressively autocratic government that has been the target of civil protests since the Gezi events in May-June 2013.
Turning the camera to the microcosm, the family unit, the new-comer Deniz Akçay exposes a world without hope for the young in Köksüz (Nobody’s Home), where role models are absent (original Turkish title means ›without roots‹) and a young woman’s choice of a partner is less determined by her heart than by practicality (a reliable handyman).
Turkish cinema historically has been gendered. Dominated by men, the industry has represented women as mystifi catory, manipulative, objectifying, or disempowering in accordance with the social and political trends of each period. Mute characters silenced by an act of violence, physical or mental have become common in the traumatic years following the three coup d’états (particularly the 1980 military intervention) to the present, along with presentations of women as a virginal mirage or fantasy, if not invisible. It is a breath of fresh air to observe the works of women fi lmmakers who are determined to present unbiased and meaningful images of the lives of all citizens of modern Turkey (men and women alike) with all the complexity and the challenges.

_Gönül Dönmez-Colin

The Return

Türkân Şoray

Feature Film

The great actress Türkan Şoray is is revered as the Sultana of Turkish cinema. In 1972, in the feature film […]

The Shore

Rüya Arzu Köksal


»…The historic pier [was] torn in two and all the nearby beaches destroyed. People lost access to the sea. We […]

Workshop Discussion with Yeşim Ustaoğlu

Yeşim Ustaoğlu, Gönül Dönmez-Colin

INTERROGATING COLLECTIVE MEMORY, IDENTITY AND BELONGING moderated by Gönül Dönmez-Collin In a republic that rose from the flames of an […]