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Women Making Strides in Turkey's Film Industry

Women Making Strides in Turkey's Film Industry
Women Making Strides in Turkey's Film Industry

After more than two decades in the dark, the Turkish film industry is now enjoying a renaissance. Along with that resurgence, there is a growing number of female filmmakers in Turkey.

In the film Zephyr, a single mother argues with her young daughter about her decision to leave her with grandparents to pursue a career overseas.

Shot in the mountains of Turkey's Black Sea, Zephyr deals with dark issues of abandonment and mortality within the family, as well as questions of love and motherhood. It is Belma Bas' first feature film.

Women Making Strides in Turkey's Film Industry
Women Making Strides in Turkey's Film Industry

"Taboos, make peoples not want to talk about those subjects, so breaking a taboo is really necessary, at least to talk about those things. That really put heavy burdens on female and male alike. We really have to break those taboos, to take a step forward to solve really primal problems, problems that are core of very disturbing issues of this country," filmmaker Bas said.

Zephyr was one of two films by a female director to compete in the main competition at the prestigious Golden Orange International Film Festival in Antalya, a first for the festival. Such a presence is an indication of the growing number of new female directors in Turkish film, says Tul Akbal Sualp, a professor of film and media. She says female filmmakers are reflecting women's roles in Turkish society.

"It is a conservative society, but starting from the late 19th century if look at the literature and especially the poetry, we have women characters, strong characters as much male ones. They are much more political than there own generation," she said. "When we look at the Turkish cinema of the last 15 years, it is less political, more personal and stylistic, but with women directors they are much involved in social problems and the political issues that they are experiencing. They are getting stronger, I guess."

Another movie that is controversial is Merry-go-around, a film that deals with another social taboo: incest. It is the second film by female director Ilksen Basarir. She says being a female director was a not problem for securing financing. It was the sensitive subject of the film that made it difficult.

"In Turkey since the last five years, the women directors have become more stronger," Basarir said, "I think we are changed are minds as women. We want to tell our stories to the people And maybe they started to accept us in this film industry. Because when I started actually I wanted to be a camera assistant. They said to me, 'No, because its a very hard job.' I said, 'Why?' 'Because they are very heavy things to carry.' I said, 'No I can work.' They said, 'No.' But now things are changing, their are lighting assistants, there camera assistants, there are directors, so it is changed."

Turkey has more than 100 films currently in production, and Bas says female directors are increasing their role in the male-dominated industry. "Recently, there is no majority of males any more in documentary and short-film making area in Turkey. So this something heralding. They are coming forward to make feature length films as well. So I think its just normal we are increasing normal as female filmmakers and I just long for the day, they will be no naming of female or male filmmakers," she adds.

Bas says that female filmmakers are taking advantage of their changing roles in the industry by being more cutting edge.

"Definitely they are more brave, because maybe they think we have just one chance" Basarir says, "That is why we tell the most powerful story we have. Because every time I say, 'OK', maybe I cannot shoot another one."

Commentators say with new Turkish female directors emerging nearly every year, the Turkish film industry appears set for a challenging and exciting future.