Altin Portakal Goes 60s
Ernest Hemingway has a book about Paris called A Moveable Feast. Another city fitting this description is Antalya on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. City of sun, sea and history, Antalya in October is hosting a feast no one wants to miss: the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival.
The Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, to which the qualifier ‘international’ was added some time ago, kicks off with a now traditional cavalcade like no other film festival in the world. Film artists, famous and not-so-famous, by the dozen alight from their planes and join the cavalcade of open-top vehicles decked with flowers and banners, a cavalcade eagerly awaited by the city’s residents from seven to seventy. Despite the years, such Turkish film greats as Türken Şoray, Cüneyt Arkın, Fatma Girik, Ekrem Bora, Hülya Koçyiğit, Kadir Inanır, İzzet Günay, Filiz Akın and Tarık Akan are always on hand. It just wouldn’t be the same without them.
The Antalya Film Festival has its origins in the Aspendos Festival, a theater and music festival that started in 1953 and continued through 1964. Antalya film artist Behlül Dal told the city’s then mayor, Avni Tolunay, “If we want to leave a lasting name for our city in the tourist atlas, let’s launch a film festival like the one at Cannes that will capture everyone’s interest.” Director, actors, writers, producers, musicians and cameramen of Turkish cinema joined the festival right off that year. They were welcomed to the city by young girls like goddesses, each one carrying an orange, which inspired the festival trophy, a statuette of Venus holding an orange in her hands.
A cavalcade of the famous will grace the festival again this year, its 46th, on 10-17 October. What’s more, since this year’s festival theme is ‘Turkish Cinema in the ‘60s’, the same crowd will be in attendance...
WRITING FOR THE STARS
Aiming to transform Antalya into an open-air theater under the stars, the festival has included in its program ten of the most outstanding Turkish films from the ‘60s as well as films that combine cinema with music. A ‘Best First Film’ category has also been added, an award laden with meaning insofar as a significant proportion of the close to seventy films made in Turkey this year, some of which are competing at Antalya, are their directors’ firsts.
The close to seventy films shot this year represent a record for Turkish cinema in the last ten years. Naturally this figure cannot compare with the days when 300 films were made annually, for the sixties were a decade of records not only for films but for actors, scriptwriters and directors as well, when world cinema was breaking records right alongside Turkish cinema. Türkan Şoray, for example, the ‘sultan’ of cinema in Turkey, made close to 150 films in those years and has close to 190 today. Character actor Aliye Rona, another star of Turkish cinema, has played in close to 400 films. Another character actor, Kadir Savun, has a whopping 1,115 films under his belt, while Öztürk Serengil, also a character actor, has played in 267 films. When Swedish director Ingmar Bergman heard the number, he could not refrain from asking, “Has this Turkish actor actually played in 267 films, or has he just had his picture taken 267 times?”
Safa Önal is regarded as ‘a gain for cinema but a loss for the world of literature’ on account of his poetic films such as ‘The Judge of Bodrum’, ‘My Licensed Sweetheart’, ‘Oh, Beautiful Istanbul’ and ‘World of Hope’. If he ever revealed the number of scripts he has written he’d make it into the Guinness Worl Records book. When asked what it’s like writing for the stars, he said, “You can’t imagine how difficult it is. My whole life has been fraught with these difficulties. They actually sit down and count their lines! One leading lady rang me up very late one night to complain that I’d written only 193 lines for her but 210 for her co-star.”
MR CINEMA AND THE MUSEUM OF CINEMA AND TELEVISION
When its writers, directors and actors are so productive, one has to take a look at the records of the producers as well. It is a fact, for example, that Türker İnanoğlu, not counting joint productions, has produced 200 films for the Erler Film Company and earned the title ‘Mr Cinema’. But İnanoğlu was not content only to produce films, some of which he also directed. Founding a company, ‘National Video’, at a time when Turkish cinema was in crisis, he enabled it to weather the storm. He made programs for television and pioneered in setting up new TV channels. In an exemplary move, İnanoğlu, who brought the city the ‘TİM-Maslak Show Center’, also created the Cinema Foundation (TÜRVAK), thus opening a Cinema and Television Training Center as well as Turkey’s only Museum of Cinema and Television.
AN EMBARRASSMENT OF GENRES
And what films did that Turkish cinema not make in parallel with the changing lifestyles of the sixties! Metin Erksan’s realistic films in their iconoclastic style like ‘Beyond the Nights’, ‘Bitter Life’, ‘Revenge of the Snakes’, ‘Dry Summer’, and his ‘Time to Love’, which poetically combines fairy tale with reality. And later, Duygu Sağıroğlu’s ‘Endless Road’ describing the story of a migration to Istanbul, Halit Refiğ’s ‘Birds of Exile’, another sad tale of migrants to Istanbul who can’t make it there, and Ertem Göreç’s ‘Walkers in Darkness’, a film that takes viewers to the world of wage workers for the first time.
Erdoğan Tokatlı’s ‘Last Birds’, and Lütfi Ö. Akad’s ‘Three Wheeler Bicycle’, ‘Red River Black Sheep’ and ‘Law of the Borders’ are all films of the sixties. To them should be added the films of directors like Atıf Yılmaz, Memduh Ün, Osman Seden and Yılmaz Güney as well as literary adaptations of writers from Kerime Nadir to Orhan Kemal, Added into the bargain are the musicals of Zeki Müren, soccer films that made the ‘Uncrowned King’ Metin Oktay into an actor, slapstick Turkish comedies from ‘Cilalı İbo’ to ‘Turist Ömer’, films of religious content, historical productions and the quintessential Turkish Tarzans and tales.
For some film-goers these are films full of laughter and tears, as in the words to Orson Welles’ famous song ‘I know what it is to be young’, films that made them believe in the innocence of love, that made them angry at bad men, that sometimes made them split their sides laughing.
BEFORE THE ‘WILD WEST’
Westerns along the lines of master comedian Cem Yılmaz’s ‘Wild West’ were first shot back in the sixties. An admirer of westerns, Ahmet Sert built an entire cowboy town near Istanbul in those years. Sert also personally manufactured the film sets, costumes, boots with spurs, rifles and studded belts used in the films. For six years his cowboy town would serve as a set both for him and other producers of westerns. Films in which the actors donned masks, such as ‘The Red Mask’, ‘The Masked Devil’, and ‘ Zorro, Horseman with a Whip’, also date to those years.
Not a trace remains now of the cinema of the sixties which is only a memory today. But the Antalya Film Festival is reminding us once again of those films: their style, their narrative technique, their stories and their actors. And a very good thing it is, too.
THE STORY OF THE AWARD IN MEMORY OF YILDIRIM ÖNAL
This is the ‘Golden Orange Award Statuette’ that the late actor Yıldırım Önal, who passed away years ago, received at Antalya and was later forced to turn over to an Istanbul grocer to pay off his debts. A television reporter found the award statuette at the grocery store and turned it over to the Association of Contemporary Cinema Actors. At the initiative of Association President Rutkay Aziz, a new award, to be held by its recipient for one year, was added to the festival in memory of Yıldırım Önal.