EMINE – Four ‘F’s’ of Turkish cinema in 2014: facts, figures, fiction, fear

Four ‘F’s’ of Turkish cinema in 2014: facts, figures, fiction, fearBy the end of the year, Turkish cinema as an industry will have left 100 years behind. And looking at movie admission figures in Turkey for 2014, it looks like the country is a growing market for the film business.

In 2013, approximately 48.5 million tickets were sold at the domestic box office, while this year the box office will come to a close with approximately 60 million people paying for theater seats.

This means thereand#39s been a 22 percent increase in movie-going in Turkey in the past 12 months.Of the 60 million tickets sold this year, approximately 35 million were for films produced in Turkey, which means that the national market share is 58 percent — the most remarkable rate in the whole of Europe.

(Second on the list is France with approximately 34 percent.)Citizens of Turkey do love local offerings in cinema, but what is it really that makes up that local style? Letand#39s take a closer look.

People need a good laugh out loudA total of 108 local films were released in the country this year, according to Boxofficeturkiye.com The top 10 films combined (including the spillover from 2013 box office hit andldquoDuIun Dernekandrdquo [The Wedding]) garnered 24.

5 million of the 35 million local admission figures, which translates as 70 percent of the local market share. The remaining 10.

5 million belongs to the andldquootherandrdquo local films. Is it just me, or is there some kind of disproportion here?So letand#39s go over these local box office hits and try to understand what it could be that the audience loves so much about them? (Surely itand#39s not just audience preference, but also the distribution practices — but weand#39ll get to that later)Turks love a laugh-out-loud comedy and occasionally just want to cry their hearts out with a schmaltzy melodrama But then again, wouldnand#39t you, if you lived in such a turbulent country? In the meantime, you have to pay an exorbitant TL 18 for a movie ticket, and most probably another TL 15 for snacks (actually, make that TL 30 — kids do love popcorn) after a lengthy stroll at your nearest shopping mall because thereand#39s nothing else to do since the nearest park and all its trees have been cut several months ago for the sake of yet another construction and your neighborhood recreational areas are concrete hellholes the size of your kitchen.

And hey, we just always need to max out those tiny credit cards, no? What Iand#39m trying to say is, when you know youand#39re going have to spend so much money (thereand#39s no running away from it consumption is our modus operandi), you donand#39t want to risk anything, right?Thatand#39s exactly why youand#39ll go running to andldquoRecep Ivedik 4,andrdquo along with 73 million other people, to watch for the fourth time a behemoth in arrested development making a fool of himself.Then, along with 34 million other people, youand#39ll go to andldquoEyyvah Eyvah 3andrdquo to see Ata Demirer and fellow cast members giving it a third go at heart-warming family entertainment (at least itand#39s well acted and intelligent).

Then along with 29 million people, youand#39ll buy a ticket to andldquoDuIun Dernekandrdquo to laugh at everything that can go wrong at a provincial Anatolian wedding.After that, along with 21 million people, youand#39ll check out Turkeyand#39s favorite stand-up comedian Cem YIlmazand#39s andldquoPek YakIndaandrdquo (Coming Soon), which is also a family entertainment with a hint of YeIilam nostalgiaFor your yearning for historical melodrama, youand#39ll go see andldquoBirleIen Gnullerandrdquo (Two Hearts as One), along with 15 million people.

Then comes andldquoDeliha,andrdquo which at first you were prejudiced towards because you thought women couldnand#39t be funny, but then you realized that if women pretend they are a female andldquoRecep Ivedik,andrdquo they too could actually be super-funny — and 15 million other people shared your concerns.After that, you wanted to cry your heart out in a star-crossed romance so you went to see andldquoIncir Reeli 2andrdquo (Fig Jam 2), along with 13 million people, even though you didnand#39t care that the first installment of the film was an insult to AIDS victims.

After that you wanted to laugh again so you went to the romcom andldquoPatron Mutlu Son Istiyorandrdquo (A Happy Ending for the Boss), which is set in Cappadocia — a magical place you always wanted to visit, but your credit card debts prevented you to do so, along with 12 million co-debtors.Then you realized you hadnand#39t had enough laughs to ease your personal pain and your countryand#39s misfortunes, so along with another 12 million people you went to see andldquoakallarla Dans 3andrdquo (Dance with the Jackals 3), and you really didnand#39t care that the previous sequel was awarded the ironic Golden Okra prize for encouraging sexism against women.

Iand#39ve just introduced you the top 10 films of the Turkish box office of 2014, all locally brewed. (Also note that five of the top 10 Turkish films were produced by the powerhouse BKM Film — with this rate of cinematic output, soon enough everybody in the countryand#39s movie industry could be working for them)At number 11, we have a foreign film hitting the mark of 11 million, which is Darren Aronofskyand#39s colossal studio production andldquoNoah,andrdquo starring Russell Crowe, who obviously has every reason to be once again embraced by local audiences for his directorial debut andldquoThe Water Diviner,andrdquo an epic take on the pain shared between Australia and Turkey of 1915and#39s Battle of Gallipoli.

Same old same oldBut letand#39s not forget that Turkish cinema has also had a successful year internationally with Nuri Bilge Ceylan winning the Cannes Film Festivaland#39s top award, the Palme dand#39Or, with andldquoWinter Sleepandrdquo and young talents Kaan Mujdeci and Erol MintaI winning prestigious prizes at the Venice and Sarajevo film festivals with andldquoSivasandrdquo and andldquoSong of My Mother,andrdquo respectively.Sadly, out of these three, only Ceylanand#39s art-house offering managed to reach a wide audience at the local box office, and if it werenand#39t for the alternative distribution system BaIka Sinema, the most notable cinematic happening of the year in Turkey, talents such as Mujdeci, MintaI and even veterans like Tayfun PirselimoIlu and DerviI Zaim would have been shunned out of proper exhibition all togetherMultiplex giants such as Cinemaximum (the company operates 26 percent of Turkeyand#39s movie theaters, but took 52 percent of total revenue from the box office and 85 percent of screen aertising share in 2013) prefer not to be bothered with art-house fare and are also clearly not bothered with their evident market concentration.

The cinema directorate of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism still cannot enforce fairer distribution regulations for small-budget films (even for the ones they financially support) and weand#39re still waiting for an updated Cinema Law, which should have come out this year but is now expected to be put into action in 2015.Speaking of governmental practices, the Antalya AltIn Portakal (Golden Orange) International Film Festival — organized by the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality — was at the heart of censorship debates in the industry this summer after the festival programmersand#39 rather divisive mismanagement of a documentary about 2013and#39s Gezi Park protests in the lineup.

The documentaryand#39s director, joined by other directors who had films in the eventand#39s national documentary competition, eventually pulled their films out of the festival because they were not convinced with the festival committeeand#39s attitude and actions regarding freedom of expression.Censorship is unfortunately not a new issue in Turkey, but the 2014 Antalya film festival was the most notorious recent occurrence in which it was hotly debated.

The current cinema lawand#39s production support regulation of asking back the entire monetary support for any film receiving an 18+ rating from the countryand#39s movie rating board is still the most clearly fear-inducing fact leading to auto-censorship for any director who wants to receive public funding for their filmIn that festival, KutluI Ataman picked up the best film prize for andldquoKuzuandrdquo (The Lamb). And even though he couldnand#39t release the film in 2014, he and his crew self-proclaim on the filmand#39s poster that andldquoKuzuandrdquo was the best film of 2014! I wish I had that confidence.

Please excuse the lightweight tone in this article, which is actually about matters of cinematic gravity — maybe I could ask Christopher Nolan to put me in the andquotInterstellarandquot ship and when I return 23 years later it all will have magically passed — but Iand#39ve got a huge credit card debt my husband, an experienced cinema journalist, is still unemployed (apparently no one needs cinema journalists these days even though the box office is booming) and I had a gas capsule landing at my feet recently because the police mistook my afternoon stroll as a cover-up for being a andldquoreasonable suspectandrdquo and like fellow moviegoers in this country, I need a good laugh to keep my sanity.Happy 100th anniversary, Turkish cinema.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman