Turkish cinema, which in November 2014 celebrated the centenary of its birth, has enjoyed a renewed splendor in recent years which is reflected not only in the large number of productions, but also in a growing academic interest and in the significant presence of cinema in prestigious international reviews and festivals dedicated to it, such as the London Turkish Film Festival, now in its 20th edition in 2015, the New York Turkish Film Festival, the Turkish Film Festival in Rome and the Rode Tulp Film Festival in the Netherlands which take place respectively starting from 2002, 2011 and 2013.
The birth of the so-called new Turkish cinema or ‘post Yeşilçam’ (from the name of the ‘Turkish Cinecittà’, the film industry that dominated the cultural and commercial scene in Turkey from the 1950s to the 1970s), is usually traced back to second half of the nineties with the release of very original films, made, often with very limited budgets, by young independent directors who are still active today such as Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Zeki Demirkubuz, Derviş Zaim and Yeşim Ustaoğlu. The release of the highest grossing film Eşkıya (1996, Il bandito) by Yavuz Turgul instead marked the rebirth of a more popular cinema that continued to attract the attention of a large audience, not only in Turkey, but also in the main Northern European countries with a large presence of residents of Turkish origin.
According to itypejob, the separation between arthouse and popular films, with somewhat different channels of production, distribution and reception, still represents a dominant feature of the Turkish film landscape. As for popular films, in recent years many directors, who often have television experiences behind them, have tried their hand at different genres. Among the most popular is undoubtedly the comic comedy with blockbuster films, often followed by sequels, such as the successful series Recep İvedik (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2014) by Togan Gökbakar which takes its name from the odd homonymous protagonist, or the GORA parody movies. (2004) by Ömer Faruk Sorak and the sequel AROG – Bir Yontma Taş Filmi (2008, AROG – A paleolithic film) directed by Ali Taner Baltacı and the popular actor Cem Yılmaz who is also the protagonist, who respectively tell the adventures of a carpet seller kidnapped by aliens and his journey back in time.
In the last decade, among the blockbusters, two very productive streams have been horror films and those with a historical setting. Horror films reproduce, in a Turkish-Islamic key, all the clichés of the classics of American horror and of the most recent Asian productions. Among the most influential directors is Hasan Karacadağ, who with his D @ bbe (2006), followed by four other titles, the last of which appeared in 2014, can be considered among the initiators of this genre in Turkey. The historical films, on the other hand, if on the one hand, in the wake of the more general rediscovered interest in the pre-republican past, retrace the glories, above all military, of the Ottoman Empire, on the other hand they do not neglect the more recent Turkish history. Fetih 1453 (The conquest 1453) by Faruk Aksoy, released in 2012 with a wide distribution including international and considered the most expensive film in the history of Turkish cinema, celebrates the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople with heroic tones, but with not a few historical inaccuracies. In 2012, Yeşim Sezgin’s Çanakkale 1915 was also released, followed by four other films that retrace, from various points of view, the Ottoman participation in the Gallipoli campaign, whose centenary was commemorated in April 2015 with solemn celebrations. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk continues to dominate the imaginary, even cinematographic, of modern Turkey and three films have recently recalled the events of his life: the controversial documentary film Mustafa (2008) by the well-known journalist Can Dündar, accused of having excessively humanized the founder of the Republic, the epic drama Veda (2010, Addio), written and directed by the singer-songwriter and writer Zülfü Livaneli, and Dersimiz: Atatürk (2010, Our lesson: Atatürk) by Hamdi Alkan, in which the life of the republican leader is told from the perspective of a group of elementary school children.
The more committed cinema, on the other hand, tries to offer alternative representations to concepts of ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender and sexuality which constitute the central nodes around which the debate in contemporary Turkish society is articulated, proposing a different language to decline identity differences. and explore traumatic events that have profoundly marked Turkish history, both collective and individual, in recent years. Among the most addressed issues are: the consequences of the coup of 12 September 1980 narrated, for example, albeit with lighter tones than the previous cinematography, in the films Babam ve Oğlum (2005, My father and my son) by Çağan Irmak and Beynelmilel (2006, The International) by Muharrem Gülmez and Sırrı Süreyya Önder; the discrimination of non-Turkish minorities described in Güz Sancısı (2009, Autumn Penalties) by Tomris Giritlioğlu; the events of political prisoners and the torture suffered in prison reported in the award-winning Sonbahar (2008, Autumn) by Özcan Alper; the unresolved question of Northern Cyprus analyzed in Ölü Bölgeden Fısıltılar (2012, Whispers from the dead zone) by Fırat Çağrı Beyaz and in the films of Cypriot director Derviş Zaim such as Çamur (2003; Mud) and Gölgeler ve Suretler (2010, Shadows and faces) ; and the Armenian genocide drama explored in The cut (2014, The Father), directed by celebrated director of the Turkish diaspora in Germany Fatih Akın.
The numerous films on the Kurdish question and on the long-standing armed conflict still ongoing in the South-East of the country deserve a separate mention. Among others, the acclaimed Min Dît (2009, I saw) by Kurdish-German director Miraz Bezar, Güneşi Gördüm (2009, I saw the sun) by Mahsun Kırmızıgül, the controversial Nefes. Vatan Sağolsun (2009, Breath. Long live the homeland) by Levent Semerci, Press (2010) by Sedat Yılmaz, which follows the story of some journalists from the prosecutor’s newspaper «Özgür Gündem», the two films by Hasan Karabey Gitmek. My Marlon and Brando (2008) and Were Dengê Min. Sesime gel (2014, Come to my voice) and the documentary film İki Dil Bir Bavul (2008, Two languages and a suitcase) by Orhan Eskiköy and Özgür Doğan, which narrates the experience of a young Turkish teacher in a Kurdish village. Finally, other films offer reflections on issues related to the thorny problem of religious identity in Turkey, where with the party of Islamic orientation AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, Party of Justice and Development) which dominates the Turkish political scene undisputed since since 2002, the clash between the secular and religious components of the country has been further polarized. Others include The İmam (2005, L’Iman) by İsmail Güneş, the acclaimed Takva (2006, Fear of God) by Özer Kızıltan and Uzak İhtimal (2009, Remote Possibility) by Mahmut Fazıl Coşkun, all focused on the spiritual dilemmas of their respective protagonists.
Although the gaze of many directors has shifted to the more rural Turkey, the city of İstanbul, a privileged setting for classic Turkish cinema, continues to maintain its centrality. However, it appears above all in its dimension as an inhospitable and alienating place. These themes are explored by films such as Pandora’nın Kutusu (2008, Pandora’s Box) by Yesim Ustaoğ lu, Kara Köpekler Havlarken (2009, While Black Dogs Bark) by Mehmet Bahadır Er, 11’e 10 Kala (2009, 10 to 11) by director Pelin Esmer, Klama Dayîka Min. Annemin Şarkısı (2014, My mother’s song; winner of the 2015 Lecce European Film Festival) by Erol Mintaş on the gentrification of İstanbul seen through the eyes of a Kurdish family from the Tarlabaşı neighborhood, and Köprüdekiler (2009, Those on the bridge) of Aslı Özge which tells the story of three men who come every day from the suburbs to the center of İstanbul to earn a living and whose lives cross the Bosphorus bridge.
Marginality and the poignant search for identity and belonging also characterize the filmography of Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Zeki Demirkubuz, Semih Kaplanoğlu, Kutluğ Ataman, Tayfun Pirselimoğlu and Reha Erdem who, with their visually very sophisticated films, focused on a slow narrative, rich in symbolic references and with stripped-down dialogues, are among the most representative directors of recent years. Ceylan is the most acclaimed Turkish director abroad, highly appreciated at Cannes where he received, among others, the Award for Best Director with the film Üç Maymun (2008; The Three Monkeys) in 2008, the Special Grand Jury Prize for Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da (2011; Once upon a time in Anatolia) ex aequo in 2011 and then again in 2014 for his latest film Kış Uykusu (2014; The Winter Kingdom), with which he returned to explore themes dear to him such as home, belonging and estrangement. Among the most original and sophisticated voices of the most recent cinematography there is undoubtedly that of Kaplanoğlu, author of the Yusuf Üçlemesi (Yusuf Trilogy) which consists of the films Yumurta (2007, Uova), Süt (2008, Latte) and Bal (2010, Honey; Golden Bear at the 60th Berlin Film Festival), in which, through a style he himself defines as spiritual realism, he follows, in reverse order, the story of the poet Yusuf, as a young adult, adolescent and then child.
The exclusion in 2014 from the Altın Portakal Film Festivali in Antalya of Reyan Tuvi’s documentary on the Gezi Park protests, Yeryüzü Aşkın Yüzü Oluncaya Dek (2014, Until love changes the world), due to its abusive language in against the high offices of the state, and the similar exclusion of the documentary Bakur (2015, North) by Çayan Demirel and Ertuğrul Mavioğlu on the Kurdish party PKK (Partîya Karkerén Kurdîstan, Kurdistan Workers’ Party) from the 34th edition of the Istanbul Film Festivali del 2015, show how Turkish cinema continues to have an important role of denunciation, but also how much it is still threatened by pressing censorship.