| Immigration of Turks in Turkish Films: Sadness of Endless Journey |
Murat Erdoğan, Turkish-German University
Migration from all cities of Turkey to West European countries for working purposes became the window on Turkish society opening up to the World. People of Turkish origins, who became an indispensable part of this mobility from Turkey to Europe, starting in the1960s, gave rise to significant social, economic and cultural consequences. These people, living in Europe, contributed to their own wealth and to both the development of their country of origin and to that of the countries they live in. The most important contribution of these Turkish people who live abroad can be stated as the evolution of mentality. Millions of Turkish citizens who migrated to the countries that they now live in show their permanency and effects on the economy, politics, social and cultural lives. Turkish people who migrated to Germany in 1961 through the first Labor Agreement, started to migrate to other European countries via similar agreements. The process, which lasted over half a century, revealed significant social results both in Turkey and the host countries. “Unforeseen Relation“, which clearly exemplified the most striking statement: “We demanded workers, people came”, reserves many different stories in itself. The differences in mentality of the societies and the transfer of this mentality inevitably created a sphere of art. Therefore, Turkish people still living in Turkey became an interesting topic for the cinema world in the1960s when they first arrived in other European countries. Many films directly or indirectly concentrated on this issue for over half a century. In the beginning, these films, which highlighted cultural differences, focused on the lives of Turks in European countries, cultural and social problems they face and integration issues. In this context, the films were fundamentally comedy or drama. However, in the1990s, films evolved tremendously, since the people who were born in or taken to the host countries at early ages started to produce films themselves.
The speech will concentrate on around 50 films that were released in 1966-2015 and directly or indirectly examine people ofTurkish origins living abroad through social and cultural dimensions of this “sadness of the endless journey”.
Exiles, Diaspora and Inner Migration: From Seobe to In the Fade
Nevena Dakoviḉ, University of Arts in Belgrade
The aim of this paper is to explore the „other“ kinds of migration– termed as inner, exilic or diasporic – and the ways they are represented in the Balkan cinema. The analysis of the narrative and representational patterns include range of films – from Sasa Petrovic’s maudit Seobe (1998) to Fatih Akin 2017 In the Fade. The chosen case studies cover the time span from the fall of the Berlin Wall to contemporary wave of migrations that swept over Balkan and Europe, explored against the turbulent political and cinematic shifts.
Based upon seminal 1969 text Film/Ideology/Criticism (J.L. Comolli/J. Narboni) the paper also deals with the modes in which the films subvert, criticise or affirm European political reaction to the various migrations, both through form and content. Eventually, I would like to claim, that the analytical premises enable me to offer the overall and innovative systematisation of the „migrations in Balkan cinema“.
Migration to Turkey through Documentary Films
Beyza Altunç & Hilal Kiremitçi, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General
The Bulgarian Turks were subjected to forced migration between 1950-51 due to the policy implemented by Bulgaria. During migration, about 200.000 Turks of Bulgaria migrated to Turkey. In this presentation, three newsreels about that period will be presented. The first and second films show the migrants’ travel to Turkey, how they were welcomed in Edirne, their settlement in guest houses and the third one shows the visit of the President Celal Bayar and the Prime Minister Adnan Menderes in order to review the situation of the migrants.
The films that will be screened in our presentation are:
1- Immigrants Coming to Edirne
07’04’’-No Sound- Black& White
2- Bulgarian Immigrants Coming to Homeland
08’10’’-Sound- Black& White
3- President Celal Bayar and Adnan Menderes' Examination of the Status of Immigrants
05’40’’- Sound- Black & White
Moving Peoples and Motion Pictures
Dudley Andrew, Yale University
Nearly from the start the cinema has registered, dramatized, and produced images of migration and its attendant anxieties. Indeed the movies have been fueled by the movements of peoples thanks to the striking stories and images these always engender. After glancing at two distinct efforts in the 1960s in which cinema aimed to capture a mass phenomenon for a mass audience (one from Classic Hollywood, the other from the periphery of India), I will interrogate 21st century strategies to come to terms with what may be the artform’s limitations. Can cinema get its arms around something so complex, multi-dimensional, and contested as migrations? Jia Zhangke’s success in bringing internal Chinese migration to light may not be easily replicated by filmmakers in other nations faced with migration issues that cluster at their borders. Perhaps other artforms are naturally more capable in this regard. To isolate what has cinema done best, however, I will draw attention to films set on the edges of Europe.
Stoic Exercise of Transnational Body: Jupiter’s Moon
Onur Civelek, Yeditepe University
The increasing number of transnational cinema practices that have transcended national limitations nowadays has important opportunities for reflecting refugeeism, another practice that transcends national boundaries. However, there is a great disparity between the two practices. While transnational cinematic practices are authorized to perform their functions, immigrants, who we can call ”transnational bodies”, are deprived of such practices. The awareness of the vast gulf between them requires transnational cinema, which transcends the boundaries, to add to the narratives of these deprived ones. Jupiter’s Moon (Kornél Mundruczó, 2017), co-produced by Hungary-Germany-France, deals with the refugee crisis in the heart of Europe through the notion of “levitation”. When Aryan, a Syrian immigrant, is about to cross from Serbia to Hungary, he is shot dead by the refugee camp director. From this moment on, Aryan is miraculously resurrected.
Michel Foucault, in his book The Hermeneutics of the Subject, in which he discusses the historical course of the relationship between the subject and the self, emphasizes a type of knowledge called “ethopoetic knowledge” in interpreting the Stoics' spiritual exercises. Examining Seneca's Naturales quaestiones, Foucault explains that in Seneca it is necessary to reach what is called “the natural law”. The way to free oneself from all that is going to enslave her/him is through the study of nature. With the opening of the secrets of nature, the highest point in the World (altum) is reached. The adventure of the migrant described in Jupiter’s Moon is relational to the notions of Seneca. When Aryan was shot at the border, he experienced death, experienced the atrocities, and realized that he was a body deprived of all rights. The immigrant thus grasps the natural law in his body. Aryan experienced that his presence in this European geography would be crushed under domination, like in Syria. After resurrection, his body becomes a flexible zone. The immigrant turns into a transnational body with the help of levitating.
Keywords: transnational cinema, Seneca, migration
Nisha’s Dichotomy of Cultural Identity in What Will People Say
Heena Kausar, Pondicherry University
This paper deals with the film What will people say, based on a family who have migrated from Pakistan to Norway. The story deals with the character Nisha and her family and their conflicting struggle to understand and negotiate between the two cultural practices. Their cultural identity crisis worsens in the later part of film when she gets abducted by her own father, who sends her to Pakistan to understand the Pakistani Muslim culture and tradition. As cultural identity, this is a matter of 'becoming' as well as of 'being' (Stuart Hall, 1994). Cultural identities have “somewhere” histories and they undergo constant transformation. There are connections to the past as much as to the future. It transcends place, time, history and culture.
Whereas the cultural politics of emotions creates "others" by aligning some bodies with each other inside a community, while estranging other bodies. Emotions are material rhetoric - they have affective power and can dictate our modes of life. In fact, they are gateways into the social and material world. Emotions can lead to collective politics and social alliances; this social power is exhibited through politics and social movement, even going so far as to create national identities (Sara Ahmed, 2004). To illustrate this point, drawing on the theory of Sara Ahmed's The Cultural Politics of Emotions and Stuart Hall’s Cultural Identity and Diaspora, this paper seeks to explore the cultural difference between the situation of Nisha and that of her parents, and their anxiety and emotion about cultural loss. Also, how Nisha with her hybrid identity (Homi Bhabha, 1994) is negotiating while fighting with her own cultural identity as a Norwegian and Pakistani. However, this paper will also study how Nisha’s migrated family, who have been de-territorialised from their location along with their culture, will cope with their pain, hate, fear, feeling, disgust, and love in an attempt to safeguard their identity. It will also throw light on how transnational and diasporic cinema attempts to cater for cultural identity with respect to migrants.
Key words: Transnational cinema, Diasporic cinema, Hybrid culture, Cultural identity, Identity, Cultural politics of emotions, What Will People Say, Stuart Hall
Haneke’s Migrants: A Cinematic Quest to Map European Migration Field
Aydın Çam & İlke Şanlıer Yüksel, Çukurova University
Michael Haneke's filmography, which has made its mark on contemporary European cinema, includes a series of transnational phenomena, including migrants and migration, as well as national, ethnic and postcolonial identity debates. In his films, the director often constructs the narrative of physical/psychological/social boundaries in relation to social capital. The aim of this paper is to analyze Haneke’s narrative in the context of the conceptual and theoretical framework of transnational space and migration studies. Haneke, starting with the Seventh Continent (Der Siebente Kontinent, 1989) and ending with Happy End (2017) for now, but not so happy at all throughout his filmography, tries his audience with the conflicts and struggle of subject characters reaching Europe. Together with these conflicts, the audience is invited to witness a profound quest on issues such as immigration, displacement, irregularity, and belonging, as well as on a larger scale, on European society in which social conflicts occur at all times.
In this study, the director's 11 full-length feature films will be evaluated and interpreted in the context of sub-themes such as migration, mobility, exile, displacement, home, homelessness, memory and belonging. Furthermore, the agents of mobility will also be included in the analysis. However, rather than how migrants are portrayed, we’ll discuss how Haneke’s portrayal of migration corresponds to the mobility within and/or towards Europe. The mobility in the cinematic universe of Michael Haneke and the conflicts which result from that mobility will be interpreted along with the movements and conflicts of Europe in the material universe. The ultimate aim of the study is to assess and speculate whether a field of negotiation can be achieved in Europe, following Michael Haneke's cinematic universe.
On the Borderlines of Southeastern Europe: Immigration in the Films by Aida Begić and Želimir Žilnik
Iva Leković, University of Arts in Belgrade
The paper analyzes recent works by Aida Begić Never leave me (TR, BH; 2017) and Želimir Žilnik The Most Beautiful Country in the World (AUS, SL, SR, HR; 2018) that narrate the lives of Syrian immigrants evolving on the borderlines of the Balkan-Anatolian region. In Begić’s case we are dealing with the immigrants’ assimilation into the culturally more adaptable space of the south-east of Turkey, while Žilnik’s film narrates the process of immigrant’s Europeanization in Vienna. Scrutinized through Naficy’s theory of exilic and diasporic filmmaking, both directors inspect the transformations of identity in their characters’ lives aimed towards the ‘’Turkish’’ and ‘’Austrian’’ dream. Both directors are representatives of post-Yugoslav cinema, and both of them have exilic experiences, while the method used in both of the films is “first the casting than the script” that sets the stage for an acted and filmed psychodrama. The narratives, represented through accented film language, allow them to approach the topic of refugees from their own experience and ‘’return to homeland’’ analysis. Their reflections on the issue of immigration, filmed in an accented style, allow an interpretation that speaks about their cinematic self-reflection: in Begić’s case it is the post-war narrative, while in Žilnik’s case a sustained critique of right-wing capitalism. The paper will focus on three phases of analysis: the analysis of the directorial approach and film language (docu-fiction drama with naturshchiks as a cast), the analysis of the main narrative line of the film, and the “diasporic” filmmaking of the authors.
Modes of Self-representation in the Images Collectively Produced by Migrants in Lesvos Island: Natives of the New World
This paper will analyze a short documentary film called Natives of the New World which is a collective work produced in 2018 by migrants who are stacked up on Lesvos Island in Greece. The anonymous writers, directors and producers of this documentary are united under the collective Kino Mosaik and they originate from different countries, namely Afghanistan, Iran, Guinea, Congo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. This analysis will be firstly based on the ways chosen by refugees in order to self-represent themselves, the form and the potential elements of resistance present in their works. Its aim is to understand how the migrants can act in society through video and what are their counter-strategies as opposed to the representation techniques of the mainstream media. As insider testimonies of migrant life, how do they create their own counter-information and how do they express it through artistic tools? We would like to question what distinguishes these works from the gaze of an outsider journalist or artist. We believe that the documentary film Natives of the New World is a good example to explore how individual identities are collectively united in a common narrative and how this common ground can express itself as a transformative power. Taking in consideration also the means of production of this movie, is it possible to define this common narrative as a “collective accent” interpreting it through Hamid Naficy’s famous definition? We want to discover in which way this collective experience provides us with ideas about migrant identity, and how we can define this sort of “collective accent”. We would like to analyze the visual reactions provided by different social realities, experiences, feelings, backgrounds and pasts during their first steps in Europe, and how all these are reflected in a common narrative.
Cinematic Visual Communication on Economic Class Dynamics in Relation to the Refugee Hosting Practices in Turkey
Balca Arda, Kadir Has University
This paper explores comparatively the visual portrayal of economic class dynamics in connection to the refugee hosting practices in Turkey through selected recent Turkish fictional films, The Guest (2017) directed by Andaç Haznedaroğlu, and More (2017) directed by Onur Saylak. The Guest is a semi-biographical story, while More is based on the novel Daha by Hakan Günday. The comparative analysis will focus on the theoretical conceptualization of the host community’s interrelation to refugee vulnerability, through the question of class hierarchy and difference. In the movies The Guest and More, the experience of sympathy, indifference or underestimation towards the Syrian refugees in Turkey can be contextualized according to the varied economic class positions of the host community characters, in comparison to the refugees, who are presented as unemployed or in a precarious working population without documents or social support. Hannah Arendt argued that the ‘politics of pity’ is distinguished from the ‘politics of justice’ which is based directly on action, on the order of merit, and is just about the observation of the unfortunate by those who do not share their suffering. Generic artistic initiatives focus on pity related affective dynamics, in the sense that the spectacle aims to provide contact between the two classes for those who are fortunate to be able to observe, either directly or indirectly, the misery of the unfortunate. These two movies survey the spectacle of the unfortunate Syrian refugees from distinct economic class perspectives. While The Guest takes a ‘fortunate’ bourgeois host community member from the economically advantageous classes in Turkey to confront the refugee vulnerability, More narrates the encounter of the refugee with the disadvantaged smuggler, who is a member of the host community but also excluded from formal economic relations. Throughout this paper, I will problematize the political stances of the two movies through the Arendtian differentiation of justice versus pity. I contend that the cross-examination of these two movies points out the commonsensical perception of the humanity crisis related to the refugee situation in the era of neoliberal exploitation of the excluded population.
No Country For Some Men: Irregular Migrants as Objects of Hegemonic Masculinity: Daha (2017)
Umut Şilan Oğurlu, Altınbaş University
This paper aims to take a closer look at irregular migrants at the center of the father-son relationship in Daha by Onur Saylak, and to discuss irregular migrants both as the constitutive and destructive parts of hegemonic masculinity. In the film, from time to time, irregular migrants become the object of the conscience and anger of father and son, which causes them to have ambivalent relationships with one another. Azad and Gazâ constitute two different representations of masculinity through the degree of encounters they have with the irregular migrants. By reducing irregular migrants into a means of making money, they urge the father, Azad, to establish “us” and “them” and “native” and “foreign” dichotomies, in order to reproduce power relations, while Gazâ, the son, touches upon their lives, which “endangers” social and symbolic boundaries and the status of his father. These boundaries manifest themselves in language, nation-state, and the familial relationship, which becomes embodied in irregular migrants’ “crossing” the Aegean Sea. Additionally, Azad and Gazâ hide irregular migrants in the basement of their home, which blurs the lines of “public” and “private” sphere. In other words, irregular migrants become the pivotal position of the film, in order to get Azad and Gazâ into gray, “crossing” zones, so that they can open room for the way in which they construct their masculinities when irregular migrants are the central “objects” of their identities.
Picturing the World in Migration
Deniz Göktürk, University of California, Berkeley
The question of migration and border control has become a litmus test for governments, democracies, and civil societies around the world. In a climate of rising nationalist resurgence, political rhetoric focusing on border security evokes the figure of the migrant as a scapegoat for larger-scale processes, which tend to remain outside the frame. How does the staging of migrants on the margins as a threat or as suffering figures on display affect viewers in front of their television or computer screens? How has world spectatorship been changing in times of mass migration and digitization of all realms of life? What might the world look like through the lens of migration? This talk will approach these questions through a recent film that presents a chronicle of migration on a global scale, Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow (2017), reflecting on perspective and participation in the production and consumption of documentary images. In contrast we will turn to a different kind of installation, Weltstadt (2017-18), an exhibition designed in Berlin that assembled a “world city” from model buildings built in collaboration with refugees. The exhibition’s focus was on a collaborative imagination of past memories and future possibilities. Countering the common mode of “migrantology” (R. Römhild), which exhibits migrants as a problem from the outside, Göktürk argues that concepts such as integration, social cohesion, and post-migrant society fall short of capturing the challenges of our turbulent times; they will need to be replaced by interaction-oriented models.
African Immigrants in Turkish Drama: Stereotypes and Recurrent Themes
Güler Canbulat Kamba, Bahçeşehir University
This paper focuses on the representation of African immigrants in Turkish dramatic films and TV serials which have been produced since 2000. Through this analysis, it will be revealed that the films and TV serials cannot avoid the regime of representation regarding African immigrants. They recreate the prevailing stereotypes of Africans present in social imaginary. In the 1990s, African migration to Turkey intensified, mostly in Istanbul, and gained visibility in the streets. However, their interactions with locals has remained limited, perpetuating cultural stereotypes due to the scarcity of encounters. This reality has translated into the imagery of cultural productions, wherever African immigrants have emerged as characters in a variety of films and television serials.
The analysis demonstrates two emerging trends. The first one can be described as a compassionate slant, where the immigrants are portrayed as fleeing from desolate conditions such as famine, war and poverty, as illustrated in Lost City (2012-2013). The second trend encompasses a discriminatory slant, wherein the Africans are represented in relation to illegality, crimes such as theft and smuggling and petty jobs. They are also associated with music and dance, an essentialist view of their capabilities. This slant is exemplified in 40 (2011), Broken Mussels(2011) and Woman (2017).
Furthermore, all narratives always end with the characters leaving Turkey, wherein Turkey as a location is only seen as temporary and transitory, reinforcing the idea that they do not belong.
In more dramatic cases, the characters’ faith ends in tragic deaths; for instance, from a police bullet or through drowning during their attempt to cross over to Europe.
These recurrent themes are further strengthened by material errors in the narratives, which reveals the lack of serious engagement in research of the lived conditions represented. This also dismisses the way in which immigrants position themselves.
The Limits of the Humanitarian Approach in Turkish Documentaries on African Immigrants
Şirin Fulya Erensoy, Kadir Has University
This paper will examine three contemporary Turkish documentaries depicting the lives of African immigrants in Istanbul. It will be argued that while they break with stereotypical representations of African immigrants perpetuated by Turkish film and television by giving them a voice, they recreate new ones that adhere to the humanitarian imagery of people in crisis. In Transit (2005) and Ofsayt (2010) prioritize a tradition of victimhood, while Refugee Here I Am (2015) frames its subject only in order to legitimate his refugee status.
In Transit tells the story of immigrants in Istanbul, waiting for their paperwork in order to continue their journey to the West. Amongst these immigrants is a Nigerian couple who meet and marry in Istanbul. Ofsayt focuses on two African immigrants aspiring to become successful football players. Both documentaries demonstrate the political and economic hardships as well as prejudices the immigrants face. Their illegal status restricts their social inclusion, living in rundown areas, at a distance from the locals. Nonetheless, the documentaries bring forth the communities they are able to forge with other marginalized people; the camera observing the lives they lead, separate from the process of immigration.
The regime of representation of In Transit and Ofsayt, which concentrate on immigrants in a state of crisis, desiring to leave yet having little control over their faiths, is broken by Refugee Here I Am. The documentary is a collaborative work between its director and its Congolese musician subject; a political refugee living in Istanbul. This collaboration allows a rapprochement between the recorder and the recorded, thus balancing out the relationship of power; a key ethical issue in documentary filmmaking. This positioning reverses the narratives of victimhood, seen in the other two examples. Nonetheless, it fails to break out of the refugee discourse, only fulfilling expectations surrounding this image.
Parodies of Turkishness: Çorumlu Amir and the Possibilities of Self-Representation
The following is an analysis of Instagram posts by Çorumlu Amir, who became a social media phenomenon after migrating from Chad to Turkey in 2012 for his university education. Amir’s social media venture first began in Vine. As of 2019, Amir has been posting his short videos on his Youtube channel, Instagram account and on TikTok. This paper argues that by parodying Turkishness, Amir reverses the terms of representation through self-representation.
Amir’s popularity is largely due to his command of theTurkish language and habitus, the facets of which he relentlessly parodies. His gift for observation gives him the capacity to penetrate the minutiae of Turkish culture and embody what he sees, making the parody even more plausible. However, Amir’s embodiments of Turkish stereotypes are compelling not only because of his capacity to successfully enact them, but also because Amir has somewhat internalized the Turkish habitus, which brings forward the question of hybridity and “code-shifting”. Like a person who shifts languages, Amir shifts between two different habitus.
Amir’s parodies of Turkishness are also compelling because they are enacted by an African immigrant. “Ethnic drag” so far has been mostly the reserve of the dominant ethnicity who used this artifice to buttress its dominance through the ridicule of the subordinate ethnic positions. However, Amir reverses the terms of ethnic drag by ridiculing the quintessence of the host society. His humor is subversive but not offensive, as he asserts his right to belong to the host culture by affirming that he is “Çorumlu”. As a hybrid actor, Amir nurtures a sense of belonging to both cultures. This hybridity is the way Amir negotiates for acceptance by the host culture as he also takes his own representation into his own hands and challenges the stereotypes of African migrants.
Index, Abstraction, and Bare Life in the Refugee Films of Richard Mosse and Ai Weiwei: Incoming and Human Flow
Robert Burgoyne, Wayne State University
My talk concerns the unprecedented and stunning formal experiments of Richard Mosse and Ai Weiwei in their attempts to capture the signature global event of our time, the mass movements of refugees and immigrants across geo-political boundaries. In Mosse's Incoming, a thermal camera registers the heat emanating from human bodies from some 30 miles distant, providing images of refugees in lifeboats, transport trucks, and refugee camps that are both other-worldly, almost mutant in their strangeness, and deeply moving -- images that rivet the gaze. In Ai Weiwei's Human Flow, drone cameras render the vast scale of human displacement around the world -- a view from above that is interspersed with the "flesh witnessing" of cell phone video, using the visual language of spontaneous documentation in counterpoint with a technology associated with military surveillance. In both films, Giorgio Agamben's concept of "Bare Life" is articulated within an advanced optical and technological framework that brings new critical questions into view.
From Journey to Hope (1990) to Seaburners (2014): Zeitgeist of Migration Films
Feride Çiçekoğlu, İstanbul Bilgi University
The two decades bridging the 20th and 21st centuries witnessed two sharp turns in terms of the ‘spirit of the times’ – zeitgeist – expressed visually in films depicting stories of migration. I collaborated in the scriptwriting and production, and also witnessed the reception of two of those films. The first coincided with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the second was a premonition of the migration crisis following the Syrian war, marking the plot points from a relatively hopeful vision to a darkly stark one.
I collaborated with the director Xavier Koller for the script of Journey to Hope (1990), which received the Academy Award for best foreign film in 1991, and with the director Melisa Önel for the script of Seaburners (2014), which made its world premiere in Berlinale Forum section in 2014. The former is based on the real-life story of a Kurdish/Alevite family from Maraş, who lost their youngest son while travelling illegally from Italy to Switzerland. The seven-year old boy was frozen to death near San Bernardino, while crossing the mountains on foot. The narrative and the shooting of the film followed the same route, and I joined the crew from the beginning to the end as the translator and the script supervisor. The second film is completely fiction, joining the stories of a foreign botanist woman, Denise, who works in the local research center, the human trafficker Hamid from Turkey, and a group of illegal migrants in transit from Turkey to Europe, focusing on a refugee girl, Sonya, travelling with her mother.
My presentation will focus on a comparison of the production process and the research on the two films (Fenner 2003, Bayrakdar 2017), with an attempt to explore the impact of zeitgeist on each.
Angelica Fenner. (2003) "Traversing the Representational Politics of Migration in Xavier Koller's Journey of Hope." In Moving Pictures, Traveling Identities: Exile, Migration, Border Crossing in Cinema, ed. Eva Rueschmann, 18-38. Oxford: University of Mississippi Press
Bayrakdar, Deniz. (2017) “Places and People of Irregular Migration in Turkish Cinema.” Communication for All/Herkes İçin İletişim. Turkish National Commission for Unesco
Seaburners (2014) in Retrospect
The starting point of the Seaburners film was the sea. The sea as a threshold, as a natural border, once perceived to be boundless, after which life ceased to be… Perhaps because of its ever-changing quality we are mostly unable to anthropomorphize the sea. Ships go down, people perish and the sea has nothing to say. Like a silent repository for all that has happened.
Collaborating with Feride Çiçekoğlu, we started gathering stories that we thought the sea brought together, in which characters were threatened by the sea; where the sea would be a threshold between the past, present and a future life. Stories of a man, Hamit with no attachment to place or family; a woman, Denise in transit and Mehmet, an apprentice to Hamit ready to flee the country intertwined with those of the refugees waiting to cross over to a new life.
Seaburners refers to this journey between times, between desire and reality, the process of burning one’s identity and past, dropping it into the vast sea, the big leap that these characters have to take. In terms of narrative, the characters in the film are all in a way troubled by the past, present or premonition of the future, thus co-existing in different layers of time. The visual style in which the camera follows the actors in this multi-character film also enabled me to move in and out of the space and time that the characters inhabit.
It took four years to make the film, from the initial idea to its premiere at Berlinale, and another five years have passed since that screening. This gives an opportunity to view the film and the past decade in retrospect, testing the premonition of the future in the film against the stark reality of the space and time we inhabit.
Seaburners: Spaces and Bodies of Migration
Deniz Bayrakdar, Kadir Has University
In the 2000s, the tragedy of the migrants escaping from states of war has found a reflection in Turkish Cinema. Rıza (Tayfun Pirselimoğlu, 2007) and Seaburners/ Kumun Tadı (Melisa Önel, 2014) both gave a reference point for my research. Rıza shows the transitional spaces (Naficy) of the migrants, the hotel rooms and bus stations. Seaburners takes the migrant bodies into ‘non-places’ (Marc Augé).
In Rıza we still feel the tactile qualities of the male and female bodies. In Seaburners, bodies are fragmented/compartmented, voices are silenced, their “being” is turned into “things” in Sobchack’s terms. They wait for their time to be taken to Europe, of which we do not see a trace or hear any sound. Europe in this film is the “heterotopia” beyond the dark seascapes.
Seaburners refers to the tragedy of irregular migration and human trafficking, whose victims are dehumanised into “thing-ness” and then into absolute “not-thing-ness” –both experientially unknown and unknowable states of “being” (Sobchack: 2004) . The bodies in Seaburners at the end are in line with Sobchack’s interpretation of the corpse and its signification.
My presentation will focus on the spaces as “black holes” and bodies as “things” of migration in Seaburners. Furthermore, I will refer to some scenes that inspired me to continue and develop my research. Films as providers of reference points for researchers in that context could be discussed in the case of Seaburners.
Barthes, Roland (2010). Camera Lucida: Reflections on photography. (R. Howard, Trans.). New York: Hill and Wang.
Bayrakdar, Deniz. (2017) “Places and People of Irregular Migration in Turkish Cinema.” Communication for All/Herkes İçin İletişim. Turkish National Commission for Unesco
Ponzanesi, S. (2012). “The Non-Places of Migrant Cinema in Europe”, Third Text. Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art, 26(6): 675- 690
Sobchack, V. C. (2004). Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Otobüs / The Bus (Tunç Okan, 1974) Beyond the East-West Opposition
Dilek Kaya, Yaşar University
The plight of the Turkish migrant worker abroad has been a popular subject of Turkish fiction, including cinema. Tunç Okan’s internationally acclaimed film Otobüs (The Bus, 1974) depicts the first encounters of a group of illegal male Turkish migrants with the “alien” Western civilization, society, and culture in Stockholm, Sweden. At the time of its initial release and later, the film has been critically received, both in Turkey and abroad, as a kind of “clash of civilizations” story, empathizing and/or sympathizing with the “non-Western.” In this paper, I will argue that although Otobüs is a film text structured upon the binary opposition of the East and the West, it does not treat the Easterners and Westerners as homogenous categories. The film rather explores multiple realities of both societies and cultures, which would exceed a simple East / West opposition. To develop this argument, I will partially benefit from the Gremassian semiotique square, which is a structural model used in the analysis of textual meaning. I will also discuss how the film constructs meaning predominantly visually through camera work and editing.
Early Turkish Cine-Fantastique: Between Appropriation and Innovation
Kaya Özkaracalar, Bahçeşehir University
Horror and science-fiction movies were not very numerous in Turkish cinema during the Yeşilçam era (1940s-1980s). Most of the few Turkish attempts at these genres were either remakes of Hollywood movies and/or adaptations of English- or Italian-language works of fiction. In addition, at least one of the early hits of the recent boom of Turkish Islamic horror movies was a loose remake of a Far East Asian horror movie. This presentation will look at these movies with the aim of delineating the degrees of appropriation and innovation involved in them. The cases studied will include Drakula Istanbulda (1953), a Turkish adaptation of Stoker’s Dracula; Şeytan (1974), a Turkish remake of The Exorcist (1973); Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (1982), now known as the “Turkish Star Wars”; the Islamic horror D@bbe (2006) as well as fotoromanzi derived Kilink Istanbulda (1967), and a few movies from the comics-inspired movies craze of the late 1960s - early 1970s. The latter will also provide cases of “melting pot”, where popular culture icons from different nationalities come together.
The Migrations of Yeşilçam: From Legends to True Stories
Savaş Arslan, Bahçeşehir University
While migration often indicates the physical change of location of human beings, the notion also involves the migration and transformation of ideas and cultures. Yeşilçam cinema, the popular film industry of Turkey, is indeed an outcome of such an initial migration, the migration of the medium itself which then is re-written in local filmmaking practices. On the other hand, the Turkish words to do with migration open up different aspects of culture and history: “göç(er)” and/or “yörük” (nomad). “Göçer,” often used interchangeably with “göçebe,” colloquially and adversely implies the Turkish culture as being nomadic, i.e., unable to settle down and be deep-rooted. This sense of movement may better be seen in the word “yörük,” which denotes the action of incessant walking (yürü-). By inviting these different senses of migration into discussion, I will try to present three instances of migration in Yeşilçam films by looking at a few historical action-adventures, covering with a nationalist vocabulary the migration of Turks to Anatolia; two early Yeşilçam films featuring migration from smaller towns to Istanbul; and one sporadic drama on Turkish nomads.
Migration, Racism and National Identity: British Cinema in the Wake of Mass Migration
John Hill, Royal Holloway, University of London
Since the growth of economic migration, mainly from the Caribbean, in the period following World War Two, British films have sought to represent and dramatize the experiences of migrants of various national and ethnic backgrounds in Britain and the responses of different social groups in Britain to them. This paper will identify some of the main trends that have characterized the representation of migrant groups – from the Caribbean, South Asia and Eastern Europe - in successive periods of British cinema and the critical issues around nationality, racism and migrant identities with which they have been associated. The paper will also link these observations to the small number of representations of Turks to be found in British films (such as Dirty Pretty Things and A Way of Life) and draw some comparisons with examples of Turkish-German cinema (such as Duvara Karşı/Head-On).
Beyond the “Crisis”: Palimpsestic Memory and Dark Humor in the Cinema of Migration
Nilgün Bayraktar , California College of the Arts
In the last several decades, the Mediterranean has been transformed into a fatal space for those attempting to cross without documents. The dominant Eurocentric perspective reductively views these migrant and refugee crossings as violations of European borders, framing them as a form of illegality or threat that needs to be contained or curtailed. Such limited frameworks feed into categories of “emergency” or “crisis,” which demand immediate intervention and top-down governmental solutions. In this talk, I will explore recent cinematic and artistic works that counter and disrupt the crisis framework and the sense of urgency and tragedy it evokes. Drawing on theories of palimpsestic memory and dark humor, I will investigate the ways in which films and artworks establish mnemonic connections across diverse experiences of displacement, challenge the hegemonic choreography of European borders, and stage the ways in which practices of governance intertwine with the practices of resistance that mobile subjects enact. Joining aesthetic issues to sociopolitical ones, I will think through how the works in question invoke provocative fictions that allow for new forms of imagination and visuality, leaving a space for uncertainty and ambiguity in which alternative stories can be told.