Where do you come from (education and film background)?
It’s a weird story. I studied Metallurgical Engineering in Ankara and worked as an engineer for a short while. Then I moved to Vienna. I studied painting at the Universität für angewandte Kunst in Vienna where some of the most distinguished Austrian masters were teaching. I studied under Wolfgang Hutter, one of the best-known names in fantastic realism. During that period I had exhibitions in Vienna, Istanbul and Budapest. My first novel Tales from the Desert was also published during my stay in Vienna.
My career in cinema started with scriptwriting. I wrote scripts for shorts and feature films and when I moved back to Istanbul I also worked as an art director. I shot my first short Dayım/My Uncle in 1999 and my first feature in 2001: Hiçbiryerde/Innowhereland, a Turkish-German coproduction.
Did you write a novel with the same story before or is it an original script? What is your relationship with literature?
This is an original script. But if you read my novels and stories attentively, you will find some traces of this motive. Taking over or stealing someone else’s identity is an irresistible idea, and it pops up in my stories from time to time. This script is totally based on this concept and it was created specifically for this film project.
I started to write stories when I was very young and I published a literature magazine with a friend after i graduated from university. I wrote and made drawings for various art magazines in Istanbul. My first novel, Çöl Masalları, is a story of a man who meets bizarre characters with bizarre stories in a desert, was published in 1996.
Is the identity issue a metaphor of the situation of Turkey today? Could it be seen as a political critique?
Yes. Identity is a very important issue today in Turkey. To be the other or to be treated as the other is a crucial problem. It is rooted in political and religious considerations and it is a big burden on the country. There is an allegory is hidden in the story which viewers can see if they have a critical eye.
You seem to portray much of the Turkish men today. Women are just sidebars then?
Not at all. My first film Hiçbiryerde/Innowhereland tells the story of a mother who tries to find her lost son. There were a lot of missing people -no one knows the exact number- after the 1980s and today there are mothers whose sons or daughters went missing, who get together in Istanbul on Saturdays. Some of these mothers were in Hiçbiryerde/Innowhereland and the authorities tried to ban the film.
Did you know/worked with these two actors before? How was the experience?
Ercan Kesal is a friend of mine and we worked together before, in Saç /Hair in which he had a small role. Besides, he is the husband of Nazan Kesal who played the leading role in the same film. I knew his performances and I always admired his perception of acting. Maryam Zaree was suggested by Nikos Moustakas, one of the producers of the project, during a painful search. I watched Maryam’s films and some of her TV performances. I don’t like or trust auditions. I believe in catching the right sprit. After a short conversation I decided to work with her. I’m really happy with their brilliant performances; both of them accomplished really difficult work.
In all your films dialogues are minimalistic. Is it because you prefer to use a visual language?
I don’t like indiscreet films that express their purpose explicitly. I even find that somehow abusive, it doesn’t offer the viewers the chance of their own perception. Anyone who accepts cinema as an art form, should accept that there are many different ways of expression. I want to offer an intuitive form of expression, not an evident one.
Would you mind if the film was classified as a genre film? Suspense/thriller/noir or fantastic?
Funny to say: maybe it belongs to all the genres you mentioned.
Which major film festivals invited your previous films?
All of my films -including shorts- were invited to-, and screened at various festivals including Venice, Berlin, Locarno, Busan, Toronto, Bafici etc.
What relation did you have with Italy in the past? Do you have favourite Italian films or directors?
I shot my second short Il Silenzio è d'Oro, in Capalbio, Grosetto. The first award I ever won – in 1999 for Dayım /My Uncle - was at the Capalbio Festival. Some of my favourite writers and directors are Italian: Calvino, Buzzati, Pasolini, Antonioni.
Any new project, film or non-film?
Yes, there is a new film project. I’ve just finished the first draft of the script. I’m preparing for my new exhibition which will be held in Istanbul in December and my new novel will be published in November. It’s a busy time for sure.