The Moon and Stars Project, the arts and culture program of The American Turkish Society, will present the Thirteenth New York Turkish Film Festival on 16-25 May 2014 at the School of Visual Arts Theater in Manhattan. This year`s festival will build upon the success of "A Space Between: A Panorama of Cinema in Turkey," a major retrospective of cinema from Turkey that featured twenty-nine films from 1958 to the present, which was co-presented by The Moon and Stars Project and The Film Society of Lincoln Center in 2012.
This year`s festival will screen a selection of nine remarkable feature films, including two documentaries and two collections of short films. The selected films address diverse themes such as poverty in the neighborhoods of Istanbul that have been subjected to gentrification, romance and human connections that transcend national borders, and identity issues involving immigrant children.
Opening night kicks off Friday, 16 May with the New York premiere of the visually stunning Butterfly`s Dream (2013), directed by Yılmaz Erdoğan, Turkey`s Oscar nominee for 2013. Mert Fırat, one of the lead actors in the movie, will be present in person for a question-and-answer session after the screening.
On Saturday, 17 May, tickets to either of the screenings, Yozgat Blues or Ships, include admission to the New York Turkish Film Festival Reception in the lobby of the SVA theater. The director of Yozgat Blues, Mahmut Fazıl Coşkun, as well as the director of Ships, Elif Refiğ, will be present in person for question-and-answer sessions following their respective movies.
In addition to the seven other feature films, the festival will also feature two documentaries followed by panel discussions. My Child, an ambitious documentary by Can Candan, sensitively explores the difficulties faced by families with LGBT children. Girls of Hope, by Ayşegül Selenga Taşkent, depicts the challenges faced by girls who try to pursue their dreams of a high school education in rural southeastern Turkey.
Another feature is Films About Conscience, a short film competition established by the Hrant Dink Foundation. The program invites amateur and professional filmmakers from around the world to submit films no longer than five minutes that look at the world through the human conscience. The New York Turkish Film Festival will show a collection of these films selected by an international jury.
Tickets are available online. Discounts are available for students, teachers, and American Turkish Society members. Follow Moon and Stars Project (@MASPNY) and like The American Turkish Society`s Facebook page to participate in a drawing for complementary tickets to select screenings.
More information on the festival can be found here.
Location: SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)
Subway: C, E to 23rd Street. Walk west on 23rd St. to the theater.
Butterfly`s Dream (Kelebeğin Rüyası)
Director: Yılmaz Erdoğan (2013; 138 min). Post screening Q&A with actor Mert Fırat.
The visually stunning Butterfly’s Dream was Turkey’s Oscar nominee this year. It is set during World War II and centers on two young poets (Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ and Mert Fırat) who have tuberculosis germs in their lungs and a love of poetry in their hearts. They create a competition to gain the attention of the mayor’s pretty daughter (Belçim Bilgin). Meanwhile, however, the two young men have to deal with the difficulties of disease, poverty, and compulsory work in the mines. Director Yılmaz Erdoğan, a favorite with Turkish audiences, conveys this heartbreaking story with a soothing lightness and a distinct love for poetry.
“Butterfly’s Dream is an epic praise about poets. Yılmaz Erdoğan’s directing deserves great respect.” Olkan Özyurt (Sabah)
Screening: May 16 at 7:30pm.
Ships (Ferah Feza)
Director: Elif Refiğ (2013; 97 min). Post-screening Q&A with director Elif Refiğ
Ali (Uğur Uzunel), while working for his father as a ship supplier, spends his time daydreaming in shipyards and harbors. He longs for a more satisfying life, taking time to ponder the nature of coincidences. His search for meaning in signs leads him to a graffiti artist, Eda (M. Sitare Akbaş), with whom he shares a journey through Turkey`s ports while looking for their escape. Eda is a refreshingly energetic and strong young woman - the kind that has been missing in Turkey’s cinema. Director Refiğ defines her style as romantic-punk, which is evident in her lyrical use of industrial scenery as well as the soundtrack of the film. Ships won the Special Jury Prize and the FIPRESCI prize at the European Film Festival in 2013.
“Even more impressive than the script`s subtleties are the film-making talent and aesthetic sense demonstrated by young Turkish filmmaker Elif Refiğ.” Marie-Pauline Mollaret (FIPRESCI)
Screening: May 17 at 6:00pm.
Director: Mahmut Fazıl Coşkun (2013; 92 min). Post-screening Q&A with director Mahmut Fazıl Coşkun.
Mahmut Fazıl Coşkun is making a distinct place for himself by creating surprisingly odd characters rather uncommon in Turkish cinema. After the muezzin who fell in love with a nun in the award winning Wrong Rosary (2009), this time we meet Yavuz, a musician who sings old-fashioned French chansons at shopping malls—superbly performed by Ercan Kesal. After various disappointments in Istanbul, he decides to take on a job singing in a run-down nightclub in the provincial town Yozgat. His former student Neşe (Ayça Damgacı), who is also in search of a new start, follows him along. They settle in a hotel room and perform together. When they become friends with Sabri (Tansu Biçer), a local barber, their relationship turns complicated. Especially the witty and funny dialogue made Yozgat Blues a favorite with Turkish audiences. The film also won the FIPRESCI prize at the Warsaw International Film Festival and was selected Best Balkan Film at Sofia International Film Festival.
“… the characters and relationships are incisively drawn, and the film’s deadpan sense of humor tickles. … Yozgat Blues succeeds in capturing a bittersweet mood that will haunt viewers.” Stephen Farber (Hollywood Reporter)
Screening: May 17 at 8:30pm.
Blue Wave (Mavi Dalga)
Directors: Zeynep Dadak, Merve Kayan (2013; 96 min). Post-screening Q&A with directors Zeynep Dadak and Merve Kayan.
Blue Wave had its premier at Antalya’s Golden Orange Film Festival where it won awards for Best Script, Best First Film, and Best Editing. Later it was screened at Berlinale’s Generation, a section devoted for films about young people. The film has been praised for its freshness. At the end of the summer, sixteen-year-old Deniz (Ayris Alptekin) and her family close up their holiday house and head back home to Balıkesir—a provincial town. Deniz goes back to school and connects with her girlfriends, talking about boredom, boys and what kind of university program they would like to attend. Through a series of vignettes, Dadak and Kayan illustrate the ever-shifting moods of these teen girls. The year brings new freedoms and dreams for the girls as it does new longings and fears, along with lots of advice from well-intentioned adults in their lives, which will be summarily ignored as these girls chart their own path into adulthood.
“Multiple awards at the Antalya Film Festival attest to the pic’s novel approach, and it’s certainly refreshing to see a Turkish film that’s neither glacially paced nor about silent traumatized men in the provinces.” Jay Weissberg (Variety)
Screening: May 23 at 7:30pm.
Director: Filiz Alpgezmen (2013; 96 min).
Stranger was one of the most controversial films at Adana Golden Boll Film Festival. The film deals with the sensitive topics of the 1980 coup and religious conservatism. Özgür (Sezin Akbaşoğulları) is the Turkish daughter of parents who, following the coup of 1980, took refuge in France. Following the loss of her mother as a young child, Özgür was raised by her father in Paris. She visits Istanbul for the first time to bury her father, who is no longer considered a Turkish citizen by the government. As she is faced with almost impossible bureaucratic problems, she finds herself as a stranger in a country she has never known. As she seeks to bury her father, Özgür finds herself on a journey to discover her parents’ homeland, her new-found extended family, and most importantly, herself.
“Stranger takes a different look at Turkey, Istanbul and the lost children of a generation that shook a whole country with its courage, who were bound to be strangers at birth.” (CNN Türk)
Screening: May 24 at 8:00pm.
Love Me (Sev Beni)
Directors: Maryna Gorbach, Mehmet Bahadır Er. (2013; 90 min).
In this engaging romance filled with cultural nuances and clashes, Cemal (Ushan Çakır), a young Turkish man betrothed by his family to a girl he`s never seen, is dragged to Kiev by his cousin for his bachelor party. In Kiev, Cemal stumbles into the beautiful Sasha (Viktoria Spesivtseva), an independent and confident young woman with an agenda of her own. The language barrier between the two is overcome by attraction and chemistry. Love Me is Gorbach and Er’s second collaboration following the celebrated Black Dogs Barking (2009). The film had its premier at the World Film Festival in Montreal and received three awards from the 34th Oporto International Film Festival.
Screening: May 25 at 5:00pm.
Director: Erdem Tepegöz (2012; 80 min).
Particle was a very welcome surprise at Antalya Film Festival in 2013, where it won awards for Best Director and Best First Film. Director Tepegöz’s fresh style of editing and use of camera combined with great performances and a striking story immediately captivated audiences. The film tells the story of a single working woman—a rarity in Turkey’s cinema. Zeynep (Jale Arıkan) is already stretched thin to make ends meet when she gets fired from her job at a textile mill. The beautifully shot film closely follows her in and out of workspaces as she searches for a job to support her mother and handicapped daughter. The camera captures the desolate streets of Tarlabaşı—a neighborhood suffering from unruly gentrification—through Zeynep’s eyes, and they seem dark and suffocating. Particle won the Best Film award at Moscow International Film Festival.
“Particle is a film that goes beyond what it shows and makes us feel. Although it tells a simple, small story, it shines through the universal aspect of this story.” Murat Özer (Arka Pencere)
Screening: May 25 at 7:30pm.
Films About Conscience
Films About Conscience is a short film competition sponsored by the Hrant Dink Foundation, which began as a project titled, “Let’s Take a Look Through Our Conscience.” The project invites amateur and professional filmmakers from around the globe to submit films—no longer than five minutes—that look at the world through the human conscience. The Hrant Dink Foundation was established in 2007, following the painful event of 19 January, in which the Turkish-Armenian journalist was assassinated. The New York Turkish Film Festival will show a collection of these films selected by the international jury. For further information, please click here.
Screening: May 24 at 6:30 pm. Click here to reserve free tickets.
Short Film Collection
After Shave (Dir: Nail Pelivan)
This seventeen-minute short film portrays the relationship between master and apprentice as a barber teaches his student the art of craftsmanship.
Alzheimer (Dir: Neslihan Siligür)
This fifteen-minute short film tells the story of a man who is sentenced to be forgotten by his lover after having had long and happy years together.
Mesut The Fish (Dir: Hakan Hücum)
This ten-minute short film depicts Şefik, a traditional man with an ill-kept appearance, and his wife, Nalan, a couple that has lived the same routine for twenty years until one day when Şefik cooks a fish after another fight with Nalan.
Scarecrow (Dir: Adem Demirci)
This eleven-minute short film shows how a young woman who is mourning the death of her husband tries to overcome her fear of being alone by imagining that her husband still continues to live as a scarecrow.
Vanished into Blue (Dir: Abdurrahman Öner)
This twelve-minute short film explores a couple’s troubled marriage, as seen through the lens of a black and white camera, with the conversations on a television matchmaking program as the sole source of noise in an otherwise silent room.
Screening: May 18 at 5:00pm. Click here to reserve free tickets.
My Child (Benim Çocuğum)
Director: Can Candan (2013; 82 min). Post-screening panel discussion with director Can Candan and other experts on LGBT support.
Co-presented with Human Rights Watch Film Festival, this screening features My Child, a documentary that follows a courageous and inspiring group of parents in Turkey who have children who identify as LGBT individuals. They have not only gone through the path of accepting their children for who they are, but have also opened up and shared their experiences publicly by forming a support group called LISTAG. In this documentary, parents intimately share their feelings and tell the story of their experiences, redefining what it means to be a family in a conservative society. My Child is a powerful film that challenges social prejudices against LGBT individuals. It was screened at numerous festivals worldwide, including the Nuremberg International Human Rights Film Festival in Germany and the Thessaloniki International LGBTQ Film Festival in Greece, and won many awards, including the Best Documentary Audience Award at the Boston Turkish Film Festival.
Screening: May 18 at 6:30pm.
Girls of Hope (Umudun Kızları)
Director: Ayşegül Selenga Taşkent (2013; 82 min). Post-screening panel discussion with director Ayşegül Selenga Taşkent and other experts on girls’ education and empowerment.
Girls of Hope is an ambitious documentary that follows five girls from Southeast Turkey who are fighting for their education. The film interviews these girls and their families, who sometimes prevent them from pursuing high school. The documentary provides insight about the tremendous difficulties faced by these girls in their pursuit of education. Almost half of the girls in this region are illiterate. This inspiring documentary won the Special Mention at RIFF in Italy.
Screening: May 21 at 6:30 pm.