Since the early 2000s, we have witnessed an incredible growth in independent cinema from Turkey with dozens of award-winning narrative and documentary films produced each year. A young generation of filmmakers contributed to a new wave of filmmaking, which has explored daring subject matters and alternative visual languages. Given the heavy political agenda of the country, a great number of these outstanding works have understandably dealt with social, economic and political issues of the country. Films that work with the genres such as experimental, animation and sci-fi are rather underrepresented despite their success on the international festival circuit. New Sci-Fi from Turkey intends to fill this gap by highlighting four outstanding shorts of the genre that have come out of Turkey in the past three years. Gokalp Gonen’s Golden Shot tells the story of rusty machines that dream of seeing the sun, while Deniz Tarsus establishes an apocalyptic universe in MOD, where a dream machine promises human beings happiness. Hasan Can Dagli in his futuristic Organic Sleep deals with commodification of human body, similar to Can Eren in I, Loneliness Gadget, which looks at the state of the individual in modern consumer societies through the story of Hasan Ali and his human pet.
Interview conducted by Ozge Calafato
I, Loneliness Gadget by Can Eren
Idea behind the film?
The film focuses on blurring relations between “products” and “human beings” with a focus on the individual at the center of consumer society. We live in a world where the society demands human qualities from products and yet product-like qualities from human beings. The film deals with this double-edged supply-demand relationship.
Thoughts on sci-fi from Turkey?
All artistic production in Turkey has a political nature. This could be due to the artists’ efforts to appeal to a bigger audience. Indeed, cinema from Turkey is expected to be political on international platforms, which at times include Orientalist tendencies. Such expectations were a major issue we have encountered in reaching out to audiences, hence the festival journey of the film has been quite unusual. By all means, we are happy to have been able to reach out to audiences in various countries as well as in different cities across Turkey. - Beste Yamalıoğlu, Producer
Synopsis: I, Loneliness Gadget tackles how consumption society patterns redefine the concepts of 'human' and 'product' through the relationship between Hasan Ali and Pet Human.
Bio: Can Eren received his BA and MA at the Bilgi University Film and Television program. Having completed seven short films, he is currently working on his first feature film project. He teaches at Bilgi University as well as the Meetings on the Bridge Short Film Workshop. He lives in Istanbul.
MOD by Deniz Tarsus
How did you get interested in sci-fi?
This is hard to answer. In fact, I like reading and watching works that are of socialist realist nature but the works I create somehow end up in a fantasy setting. Perhaps that’s because I’m not satisfied with reality.
Thoughts on sci-fi from Turkey?
Independent cinema in Turkey is often times political. Sci-fi as a genre is rather rare. Shorts films are unfortunately not taken seriously. You are forced to make your film out of your pocket or if you are lucky enough you find a sponsor. Making a film requires a substantial budget. Even for short films to find the right screening platforms, a dedicated person is needed to take care of the submissions. This person usually ends up being the director of the film. This is not always efficient and proves to be very tiring for filmmakers. Short films need to have the same kind of crew and support that feature films have. Due to these reasons, I haven’t been able to make short films for some time now. On the other hand, I continue to write short stories since I don’t depend on anyone for writing.
Synopsis: Equilibrium is upside down, humanity is exhausted, and people are willing to sacrifice everything for a dream machine that can show them their future happiness.
Bio: Deniz Tarsus was born in 1987 in Bodrum. She studied film at the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. She works as a commercial, documentary, and music video director. Her fiction works have been published in many magazines and websites, and her short films have been shown at many film festivals, including the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival and have won many awards. Her books include Ozo Ozo Çakta (Dedalus Kitap), Ayrıkotu, Babam Bir Astronot, and İt Gözü (Can Yayınları).
ORGANIC SLEEP by Hasan Can Dagli
Idea behind the film?
The idea of the film came about during a conversation with a friend on the beauty of the human body. I’d been thinking a lot about body politics and thus came the idea of the film, which talks about the transformation of the human body into different material, the kind we see in Cronenberg films.
Distribution of the film?
There are still no distribution networks or a market for short films in Turkey. The genre of the film, sci-fi or any other genre, doesn’t make a difference. Organic Sleep was screened more internationally than locally since genres like sci-fi, horror or fantasy are not as popular in Turkey as they are abroad. Therefore, I stopped sending the film to festivals in Turkey after a while.
Synopsis: A tour of human commodities in an unsettling future, where simulation has taken on entirely new forms.
Bio: Hasan Can Dagli was born on June 06, 1987 in Istanbul, Turkey. He is a director, writer, known for Organik Uyku (2016), La Fabbricazione (2015), Everyday (2011). He studied film at School of Visual Arts and Marmara University. He is co-founder of BLAH Pictures, a filmmaking company located in Istanbul. Mostly working on short films and commercials.
GOLDEN SHOT by Gökalp Gönen
Idea behind the film?
The idea of the film came out of a picture I drew of two elderly women looking at each other in two houses at the end of two hills. I blended this with steampunk, which I love, and used 3D and machines instead of human characters in order to make the story independent of time.
Possibilities of Distribution?
There are now online platforms for filmmakers to apply to festivals. For GOLDEN SHOT, I researched film festivals thoroughly. The film has been shown over 200 festivals and I owe this to the research. From a tiny city in the Arctic to somewhere in the South Pole, I sent the film everywhere I could. The fact that film has no dialogue and deals with universal issues made it easier for festivals to accept it.
Synopsis: Rusty machines living in their small houses imagine that the sun will come and take them to the sky someday. A small light keeps them alive and dreaming. But one of the machines wants to see the sun itself and has a plan.
Bio: Gökalp Gönen was born in 1989. He grew up in Hatay, Turkey, in a rural environment. He has always been amazed by systems of nature. Consequently, it became a passion for him to create systems for imaginary creatures.
About the author
Özge Calafato has worked for the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) as Programming Manager and served as a selection committee member for the SANAD Development and Post-Production Fund. She has also worked as a programmer and consultant for a number film festivals and institutions including Documentarist, DOK Leipzig, Doha Film Institute, DokuFest, Oslo Arab Film Days, The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Punto de Vista, Imagine Science Film Festival, Cinema Akil and Birds Eye View. She is a co-founder and project director of the UAE National Film Library and Archive and a member of the publications committee for the online literary magazine altZine.net and e-book publisher altKitap.net. She currently works as the Project Manager for the Akkasah: Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi.