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SELECTION OF TURKISH FILMS

1. Nuri Bilge CEYLAN - Distant(2002)

Plot Summary for UZAK (DISTANT)  (Filmed in 2002)
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Writers: Nuri Bilge Ceylan (scenario), Cemil Kavukçu (additional writing)
Stars: Muzaffer Özdemir, Emin Toprak and Zuhal Gencer
Running Time : 110 min.
Uzak tells the story of Yusuf (Mehmet Emin Toprak), a young factory worker who loses his job and travels to Istanbul to stay with his relative Mahmut (Muzaffer Özdemir) while looking for a job. Mahmut is a wealthy and intellectual photographer, whereas Yusuf is illiterate, uneducated, and unsophisticated. The two do not get along well. Yusuf assumes that he will easily find work as a sailor, but there are no jobs, and he has no sense of direction or energy. Meanwhile, Mahmut, despite his wealth, is aimless too: his job, which consists of photographing tiles, is dull and inartistic, he can barely express emotions towards his ex-wife or his lover, and while he pretends to enjoy intellectual filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky, he switches channels to watch porn as soon as Yusuf leaves the room.
Mahmut attempts to bond with Yusuf and recapture his love of art by taking him on a drive to photograph the beautiful Turkish countryside, but the attempt is a failure on both counts. At the end of the film, Yusuf leaves without telling Mahmut, who is left to sit by the docks, watching the ships on his own.
The use of the word distant rather than distance shifts emphasis from the gap itself to the state of existence. While Yusuf is from the village, Mahmut lives in the city. Although they are able to bridge the geographical distance they remain emotionally and spiritually distant. Mahmut spends his days in the city trying to cope with loneliness and emotional vacuum. While the arrival of his cousin Yusuf should have filled in that hollowness it only proves to deepen for both of them. The film portrays the alienation brought about by increasing globalization and urbanization.
It is also aptly and to an extent ironically picturized in the scene where Yusuf tells Mahmut of his intention to find a job on a ship. To which Mahmut replies that a sailor's job is tough and consists of sailing to far away lands totally cut off from civilization and asks him if he would choose such a life of loneliness and solitude. Yusuf in return says that he only cares about the money as he had heard there were chunks of money in the sailing business. This in a way reflects the mentality and the desperation of the modern generation and their willingness to distance themselves from their objects of love and passion for the sake of material wealth and a junk lifestyle.

2. Nuri Bilge CEYLAN- Three monkeys (2008)

Plot Summary for Üç Maymun (Three Monkeys) (Filmed in 2008)
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Writers: Nuri Bilge Ceylan (screenplay), Ebru Ceylan (screenplay), and Ercan Kesal (screanplay)
Stars: Yavuz Bingol, Hatice Aslan and Ahmet Rifat Sungar
Running Time : 109 min.
“A family suffers from a major communication breakdown during their struggle to to get through their hardships.”
A family is dislocated when small failings become extravagant lies. The film opens as a wealthy businessman, Servet, running a campaign for the upcoming election, is driving in his car alone and sleepy, struggling to keep his eyes open. Seconds later he hits and kills a pedestrian in the middle of the road. Servet panics when another car with a couple inside approaches. He sneaks away.
Eyüp, a man living in a slum at the Yedikule neighborhood in İstanbul, with his wife and only son, is the driver of Servet. He wakes up in the middle of the night with his cell phone ringing. It's his boss, telling Eyüp to meet him immediately. Shivering in shock, Servet explains the current events to his driver. His excuse is if the fatal accident comes out in press it would terminate his political career, so he proposes Eyüp to take over the penalty and stay in prison for a brief period of time in exchange for a lump sum payment upon his release, whilst still paying his salary to his family so they can get by. Eyüp accepts the deal.
An unspecified time passes, summer arrives, and Eyüp's son İsmail fails to enter college again. His mother, Hacer, who works in the catering division of a factory, starts worrying about her son after unpleasant events, and tries to convince him to get a job. İsmail suggests driving children between home and school but of course they don't have any financial source for this kind of an enterprise. İsmail asks his mother to request an advance payment from Servet without consulting Eyüp. Hacer meets with Servet, in his office after the election (which he lost), and requests the money. After Hacer leaves the office and starts waiting for a bus at the stop Servet persuades Hacer to accept a lift from him back to her home.
More unspecified time passes, and İsmail intends to visit his father. Things take a poor turn when he finds his mother having an affair with Servet. İsmail stands passive. After serving nine months in prison, Eyüp is released. He senses things are "a little peculiar" inside his home. Hacer is in love with Servet and insists on maintaining their affair. Servet disagrees. That night, Hacer and Eyüp are invited to the police station and informed that Servet has been murdered. Police officers interrogate the two and Eyüp finds out that Hacer was cheating on him. He denies knowing anything about it. İsmail confesses to his mother that he murdered Servet. Eyüp calms down when he pays a visit to a mosque. Afterwards, Eyüp goes on to speak with a very poor man who works and sleeps inside a tea house in the neighborhood. Eyüp makes the same proposition to the poor man, Bayram, that Servet made to him: to claim the crime committed by his son. Bayram agrees. The last scene shows Eyüp at his home's balcony, staring at the Sea of Marmara, and along with thunder it starts to rain.

3. Fatih AKIN - Head on (2004)

Plot Summary for Duvara Karşı (Head-On) (Filmed in 2004)
Director: Fatih AKIN
Writers: Fatih Akın (screenplay)
Stars: Birol Ünel, Sibel Kekili and Catrin Striebeck
Running Time : 120 min.
Cahit Tomruk (Birol Ünel) is a German of Turkish descent in his 40s. He has given up on life after the death of his wife and seeks solace in cocaine and alcohol. One night, he intentionally drives his car head-on into a wall, and barely survives. At the psychiatric clinic he is taken to, Sibel Güner (Sibel Kekilli), another German Turk who has tried to commit suicide, approaches him. She asks Cahit to carry out a formal marriage with her so that she can break out of the strict rules of her conservative family. Cahit is initially turned off by the idea, but then he agrees to take part in this plan.
As Sibel tells him frankly that she prefers an independent sex life, they live as roommates with separate private lives. They eventually fall in love, and things take a different turn as Cahit kills one of Sibel's former lovers out of anger and thus he has to go to prison. While Cahit is in prison, Sibel flees her family and goes to Istanbul to stay with her cousin Selma (Meltem Cumbul) — a divorced woman who manages a hotel. Sibel accepts a job as a maid in Selma's hotel, but finds her new life to be as restrictive as prison. She leaves Selma's apartment to live with a bartender who provides drugs and alcohol. Eventually, he rapes her and throws her out. Roaming the streets that night, she baits three men into beating her up. One of them stabs her and they leave her for dead.
Several years later, Cahit travels to Istanbul upon his release, hoping to find Sibel. Initially, Selma refuses to tell Cahit where Sibel is, but informs him that Sibel is in a long-term relationship and now has a daughter. (The film does not show us her recovery from the rape and assault.) Cahit waits in a hotel for Sibel's call. It eventually comes. He asks her to run away with him, and she agrees to, but never shows up. The film ends with Cahit on a bus, presumably travelling to Mersin, the city where he was born.

4. Yavuz TURGUL - The Bandit(1996)

Plot Summary for Eşkiya (The Bandit) (Filmed in 1996)
Director: Yavuz TURGUL
Writers: Yavuz Turgul (screenplay)
Stars: Şener Şen, Uğur Yücel and Sermin Hürmeriç
Running Time : 121 min.
After serving a 35-year jail sentence, Baran (played by Şener Şen), a eşkıya (a bandit, a haydut in Turkish), is released from prison in a town in Eastern Turkey. When returning to the home village he witness the fact that the world has changed dramatically during those years, with the village itself underwater after the construction of a dam. Then he also finds out that the person who masterminded the betrayal that brought him to jail was Berfo (Kamuran Usluer), a friend who had once been closer to him than a brother. In order to snare Keje (Sermin Şen), Baran's sweetheart, Berfo seized his best friends gold and had Baran arrested by the gendarmes on Mountain Cudi. Then Berfo purchased Keje from her father against her will, and disappeared. According to rumor, he is in Istanbul.
While traveling to Istanbul by train, Baran meets Cumali (Uğur Yücel), a young man. Cumali was raised in the alleys of Beyoğlu, his life revolving around bars, gambling joints, alcohol, dope and women. Cumali dreams of joining the mafia and making it big. He takes Baran to a dilapidated hotel in the backstreet's of Beyoğlu. After a while, Cumali and his friends discover that Baran used to be a bandit, but they can't take it seriously. Cumali's dreams of a new life include Emel (Yeşim Salkım), his girlfriend. Emel has a convict brother, Sedat (Özkan Uğur), who is in trouble with the other prisoners in his jail. His life is in danger, and he needs a high amount of money to get out. Cumali promises Emel to get the money for her brother as soon as possible. Thus, when he deals with a transport of drugs for the mafia, he steals a quantity, enough to secure the escaping of Sedat and also later to get him in trouble with Demircan (Melih Çardak), the mafia boss.
Meanwhile, the bandit is going through Istanbul in a daze, lost in a totally alien world, with no idea where to start looking for the woman he loves and the mortal enemy who has stolen her. After some days he happens to see Berfo on TV, now as a powerful businessman with the name changed...

5. Semih KAPLANOGLU - Honey (2010)

Plot Summary for Bal (Honey) (Filmed in 1996)
Director: Semih KAPLANOĞLU
Writers: Semih KAPLANOĞLU (screenplay) and Orçun Köksal (screanplay)
Stars: Bora Altaş, Erdal Beşikçioğlu and Tülin Özen
Running Time : 103 min.
In the remote and undeveloped eastern Black Sea region, a six-year-old boy (Yusuf) wanders through the woods searching for his lost father, trying to make sense of his life. His father is a beekeeper whose bees have disappeared unexpectedly, threatening his livelihood. A bizarre accident kills the father. There is little dialogue or music in the film. The three main characters (Yusuf and his parents) are all fairly taciturn, and the soundtrack is filled out with the sounds of the forest and the creatures that live there. The environment is a recurring theme.

6. Ahmet ULUCAY- Boats out of Watermelon Rinds (2004)

Plot Summary for Karpuz Kabuğundan Gemiler Yapmak (Boats out of Watermelon Rinds) (Filmed in 2004)
Director: Ahmet Uluçay
Writers: Ahmet Uluçay (screenplay)
Stars: İsmail Hakkı Taslak Nejat Altinsoy, Mehmet Amca and Levent Aras, Kadir Kaymaz, Gülayşe Erkoç, Boncuk Yılmaz and Hasbiye Günay
Running Time : 98 min.
This is a movie about amateur spirit made with an amateur spirit. It is the story of two adolescents who live in a small village, work in temporary summer jobs in a small town near their village, and have a passion for cinema. One of the boys works in a barber shop, the other sells watermelons. Whenever they find time, they work on their old little machine to show motion pictures from disposed films they collect from the local movie-theater, the only person in support of these efforts being the village idiot. While their efforts continue hopelessly but ambitiously, one of finds himself in love. The movie was inspired by the director's own passion about cinema, and was made in his own village, all the acting being done by local villagers.

7. Yüksel AKSU - Ice cream , I scream (2006)

Plot Summary for Dondurmam Kaymak (Ice cream, I scream) (Filmed in 2006)
Director: Yüksel Aksu
Writers: Yüksel Aksu  (screenplay)
Stars: Nejat Altinsoy, Mehmet Amca and  Levent Aras
Running Time : 100 min.
Ali, who is an ice cream salesman in Mugla, tries to survive in the face of fierce competition from the big ice cream brands. While trying to promote his ice cream, he tours the village with his brand new yellow ice cream motorbike. However the naugthy boys of the town who are chasing him to have free ice cream, steal the motorbike while he is away. Still repaying the debts for the loan on his motorbike, Ali becomes furious and accuses the big ice cream brands of stealing the car in order to destroy him. He starts investigating the theft of his motorbike asking one by one to the sellers of the big brands, while all along the naugthy boys are enjoying their free ice cream.

8. Fatih AKIN - the Edge of Heaven (2007)

Plot Summary for Duvara Karşı (The Edge of Heaven) (Filmed in 2007)
Director: Fatih AKIN
Writers: Fatih Akın (screenplay)
Stars: Nurgül Yeşilçay, Baki Davrak, Tuncel Kurtiz,  Hanna Schygulla,
Patrycia Ziolkowska, Nursel Köse and Nursel Köse
Running Time : 122 min.
Yeter's Death
Retired widower Ali, a Turkish immigrant living in the German city of Bremen, believes he has found a solution to his loneliness when he meets a Turkish prostitute, Yeter. He offers her a monthly payment to stop working as a prostitute and move in with him. After receiving threats from two Turkish Muslims, she decides to accept his offer. Ali's son Nejat, a professor of German literature, does not have time to respond to the prospect of living with a woman of "easy virtue" before Ali is stricken with a heart attack. He softens to her when he discovers that she sends shoes back home to Turkey for her 27 year old daughter and wishes that her daughter receive an education like him.
Back home from the hospital, Ali suspects that the other two may have become lovers. When his drunken demands of Yeter make her threaten to leave, he strikes her, accidentally killing her. Ali is sent to prison.
Nejat travels to Istanbul to search for Yeter's daughter, Ayten, and assume responsibility for her education. Unable to locate her through her family, he posts flyers of Yeter throughout the area in the hopes that it will lead to the daughter. When he posts a flyer in a small German language bookstore that happens to be for sale, he finds himself charmed into buying it.
Lotte's Death
A plainclothes officer loses his gun on the street during a riot. A hooded figure scoops it up and is pursued on foot by a battalion of uniformed officers, barely managing to hide the contraband on a random rooftop. This is Ayten, a member of a Turkish Communist resistance group.
When her cell is raided, she flees Turkey and takes up a new identity with political allies in Bremen, Germany. However, even there, she has a falling out when she is unable to pay her debts, and thus finds herself on the street with barely a euro to her name. Her mother's number is lost, so she lives illegally and searches for her in local shoe shops.
Lotte, a university student, offers to help her with food, clothes, and a place to stay—a gesture which is not particularly welcomed by her mother, Susanne. Ayten and Lotte become lovers and Lotte decides to help Ayten search for her mother. The quest is cut short when a traffic stop exposes Ayten's illegal status and she attempts a claim of political asylum. Despite Susanne's financial support, Germany rules that Ayten has no legitimate fear of political persecution. She's deported and immediately imprisoned.
Lotte is devastated. She travels to Turkey to try to free Ayten, but quickly realizes how little hope there is, as she is facing 15 to 20 years in jail. Susanne pleads with her to think of her future and return home. When Lotte refuses, her mother refuses to assist her further. Lotte gravitates to Nejat's bookstore and ends up renting a spare room from him.
Finally granted a prison visit with Ayten, Lotte follows her imprisoned lover's request and retrieves the handgun Ayten acquired in the riot. But Lotte's bag, with the gun inside, is snatched by a crew of boys that she chases through their neighborhood. When finally she finds them in a vacant lot, one of the boys is inspecting the gun. She demands he return it, but he points it at her and fires, killing her instantly.
The Edge of Heaven (literally, On the Other Side)
Upon his release, Ali is deported to Turkey, returning to his property in Trabzon on the Black Sea coast.
After her daughter's death, Susanne goes to Istanbul to see where her daughter had been living the past few months. She meets Nejat and reads her daughter's diary; she decides to take on her daughter's mission of freeing Ayten from prison. Susanne's visit to Ayten—an offer of forgiveness and support—leads the younger woman to exercise her right of repentance. As a result, she wins her freedom.
Susanne asks Nejat about the story behind a Bayram they notice, learning that it commemorates Ibrahim's sacrifice of his son Ishmael. She comments that there is the same story in the Bible, where Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. Nejat reminisces about being scared by the story as a child and asking his father if he would sacrifice him if God told him to. When asked by Susanne what his father's answer was, Nejat told her that "He would make God his enemy in order to protect me". Removing the poster of Yeter from the shop's noticeboard, Nejat now journeys to Trabzon to reconcile with his father, asking Susanne to look after his shop while he is gone.
Susanne offers Ayten a place to stay with her at Nejat's house. Nejat's father is out fishing when he arrives, so he waits for him on the beach in Trabzon.

9. Atıf YILMAZ - the Girl With Red Scarf (1977)

Plot Summary for Selvi Boylum Al Yazmalım (The Girl with the Red Scarf) (Filmed in 1978)
Director: Atif Yilmaz
Writers: Chingiz Aitmatov (novel), Ali Özgentürk
Stars: Türkan Soray, Kadir Inanir and Ahmet Mekin
Running Time : 95 min.
İlyas is the cool loner from İstanbul who comes to a remote village working as a truck driver. He and cute village girl Asya fall in love and get married. Their child is born who they name Samet. İlyas frequently leaves the village for his job and Asya is left alone to care for their baby; this time İlyas leaves never to come back. Asya grows worried and takes off with Samet to search for her husband only to find out he is having an affair. On their journey, devastated mother and child meet a man, Cemşit, who takes pity on them and offers them food and shelter. Samet becomes increasingly fond of Cemşit and Asya begins to see that Samet thinks of him as a father. Then one day, İlyas suddenly returns and Asya is left to make a choice between him and Cemşit.

10. Pelin ESMER - the Play (2008)(documentary)

Plot Summary for Oyun (The Play) (Filmed in 2005)
Director: Pelin Esmer
Writers: Pelin Esmer
Running Time : 70 min.
When nine peasant women from a mountain village in southern Turkey decide to write and perform a play based on their life stories, aspects of their personalities emerge that they never knew existed. Esmer's documentary observes the creative stages leading up to the production of the play, and shows us how nine subtly but significantly different women emerge after its staging.