Turkey Cinema

By | September 2, 2021


Begun in 1914 with short films and war newsreels, the national production recorded a dozen films in the silent period and a hundred with sound up to 1950. The absolute ruler was Muhsin Ertuğrul (1892-1879), a man of the theater who limited himself to filming the own repertoire. Pioneer of the cinematographic language as well as of political and social commitment was, in the 1950s, Lüftü Akad, influenced by French and American models (In the name of the law, 1952; There are six dead, 1953; The white handkerchief, 1955), but then ever closer to the customs and reality of the country (The law of the borders, 1966; The river, 1972; The bride, 1973; The marriage, 1974; The Atonement, 1975). His example was followed by numerous directors who opposed the prevailing trend for melodramas of action, sex and violence. The Golden Bear won in 1963 at the Berlin Film Festival by Metin Erksan’s Arid Summer strengthened the more honest current, personified among others by Atif Yilmaz who made Yilmaz Güney debut as an actor and assistant and who in 1972, during one of the frequent periods of political incarceration of the student, he completed and signed his film The Poor. Born in 1937 in Yenice di Adana, who died immaturely in Paris in 1984, Güney is the artistically and civilly most important figure in Turkish cinema. After a very dense career as an actor, he trained as a filmmaker and writer around the magazine Young cinema born in 1968. As a complete author he made his debut with the triptych Speranza (1970), Elegia (1971), L’amico (1974), dedicated to the peasants of Anatolia and which openly challenged the feudal regime. Sentenced several times, first for communism and then, on false testimony, for murder, Güney continued the resistance in the various prisons, dictating other films to his assistants Serif Gören and Zeki Ökten, who practically shot them. After the coup of the generals (September 1980) he feared for his life and, in October 1981, he managed to escape and take refuge abroad. In 1982 he personally presented his Yol in Cannes(materially filmed by Gören, but conceived, scripted and edited by him), winning the Palme d’Or. He continued his battle in exile with another film, the last, The Wall (1983), about the experiences of imprisonment. His influence on young people was disruptive, from him the new cinema was born, which has been awarded several times at international festivals. In addition to those of Gören (Medicine, 1984; Hidden feelings, 1985) and Ökten (The flock, 1979; The enemy, 1980; The wrestler, 1985), the names of Yavuz Orkan (Mine, 1978), Ali Özgentürk (At, il Cavallo, 1983), Omer Kavur, Türkan Soray, Erden Kiral, who was also forced into exile (On fertile land, 1980; A season in Hâkkari, 1983, Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival; The mirror, 1984), Yavuz Turgul (Mushin Bey, 1988) and Menduh Un (All doors were closed, 1990). Although a very strong economic crisis brought Turkish cinema to its knees in the 1990s, there was no shortage of important authors and films. International successes have obtained Furuzam and Gulsun Karamustafa with My cinema (1990), Fehmi Yasar with The glass heart (1990), Omer Kavur, who availed himself of the collaboration of the writer Orhan Pamuk, for The secret face, presented in 1991 at the Venice Film Festival, and Mustafa Altiokar with İstanbul under my wings (1996). The aforementioned Kiral made Blue Exile in 1996, the most expensive film in Turkish cinematography. Many directors are children of the great emigration wave that brought the Turks all over Europe, especially in what was once West Germany: just think of the success of the drama The Turkish Bride (released in Italy in 2004), Fatih Akin’s first feature. (n. 1973) which accurately traces the portrait of a generation divided in two, between East and West. Finally, also the director Ferzan Ozpeteck (b. 1959), born in İstanbul and active for some decades in Italy, defines himself as a “son of two cultures”.

Turkey Cinema


According to securitypology, a national ballet school was founded in İstanbul in 1947 and moved to Ankara in 1950. A second school was also established in İstanbul in 1970. Both teaching and ballet activities were at first largely influenced by modern tradition. British, with more recent openings to the international repertoire, compatibly with the political situation of the country. The first high-level Turkish choreographer was certainly Sait Sokmen (b.1942), who returned home after a long stay in New York at the Balanchine school paved the way for contemporary ballet, trying to amalgamate legendary and traditional themes in a choreographic structure inspired by Western modernity (Kurban, The sacrifice, 1976). The three most charismatic choreographers and dancers of the last decades are certainly Duygu Ayka (b.1948), Aydın Teker (b.1958) and the powerful Geyvan McMillen (b.1952), who have been able to introduce in Turkey not only the work of the most important international companies, from Martha Graham to Leonide Massine, but also the recent suggestions of European dance theater.