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Erden Kiral Tribute at 52nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival
7 November 2011
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This year’s Balkan Survey section is holding a tribute to the cinema of Erden Kiral.
On Saturday, November 5 he was honored at a special event and on Sunday, November 6 Erden Kiral gave a Press Conference at Warehouse C.
During the Press Conference, coordinated by the Balkan Survey section director Dimitris Kerkinos, the Turkish director spoke about various interesting aspects of his long career and about the sociopolitical conditions under which he developed as a director.

Mr. Eipides spoke about the particular honor felt by the organizers of the 52nd TIFF, as they are presenting “a leading Turkish director, a filmmaker who has made a significant number of films and whose work has influenced the new generation of Turkish directors”. At the same time he expressed his pleasure that Erden Kiral has received an award from the organization, as well as for the fact that this year the Turkish auteur’s work is presented almost in its entirety. He also noted the constantly rising quality of Turkish film production.

Erden Kiral spoke about the various difficulties he faced while shooting his films.
He noted: “I began making films in ’78. As you know, there was a military coup in Turkey in 1980, so my films were shot in a background of political and social upheaval. Shooting was almost done in secret, so I preferred to give a metaphorical connotation to my films, a choice which I believe somewhat reminds one of Carlos Saura. The truth is that it depresses me to speak about the difficulties I had”.

He also spoke about his relationship with Yilmaz Guney, the influence Guney had on him, his awareness of the difficulties he faced while his mentor was in prison, and the end of their collaboration because of a disagreement. “After our disagreement I secretly shot A Season in Hakkari. The film was banned in Turkey and the audience there had to wait five years to see it, in spite of its winning an award at the Berlin Festival”, Mr. Kiral noted. Speaking about his style and influences, he stated: “I always tried to have a realistic approach, which needs limits however, because otherwise you run the danger of becoming a naturalist. Given that the classic films that screened at the Istanbul cinematheque didn’t express me, I completed my studies with French cinema. However, if we look back, my stay in Germany made me change style, while I made The Mirror, my most difficult and different film of my career in Greece, specifically Andros. Also, I worked with Wim Wenders while I lived in Germany, who liked The Mirror and really supported me, a fact that once again drove me to a new style. Today I feel I am in a different place”.

Speaking about his relationship with the documentary genre and the similar style of his films, he explained: “I did this consciously. Basically, I used the technique of war photography used by the Americans. I wanted to capture the moment, like the lens capturing a wounded soldier on the front. Elias Kazan, when he saw my film The Blue Exile, told me that I had solid foundations. But he also stressed that I shouldn’t focus on one issue at a time, as well as that I shouldn’t “play” with the film’s central theme”.

Referring to the process of choosing his actors, the director noted: “I choose people whose appearance reflects the film’s characters. However, I often attempt the following paradox: to have them not resemble the characters physically but mentally, so that they can interpret their characters”. He also noted the importance that preproduction has for him. According to him, it is metaphorically similar to a pornographic relationship, since he spends about a year and a half with his actors before shooting begins, exchanging opinions. For Kiral, even the smallest things are very important to the filmmaking process. “A director has to always take under consideration the accidental, the wind blowing, the leaves rustling, the sunlight, etc. I am also interested in the condition of my actors when the film is finished, something that few directors pay attention to. Perhaps we should spoil the actors who have done a good job, since if they are television actors they are called upon to leave behind the “dirt” of television and reveal themselves. Television work is not art. In Turkey, no one wants to see what a work of art, even though there are many good directors making wonderful films”, Mr. Kiral concluded.

Regarding how daring he is in his films’ erotic scenes, Erden Kiral stated: “Perhaps I can’t speak generally on this subject, even though I’ve gone overboard in some scenes. There used to be a sex film fad in Turkey, as a reaction to a great Turkish actress who refused to kiss in her films. As opposed to today, in old Turkish films the actors pretended to kiss. In spite of this, sexuality is still repressed in Turkey. My approach is that everyone should be free to express himself, and this is what I tried to show in The Mirror and Conscience”.

Erden Kiral said that he is impressed with the popularity of Turkish television series in Greece, which are the continuation of Turkish commercial films. However, the moment the series became an independent section of production, cinema can’t achieve something comparable. “I participated in 35 related institutions, and I even suggested to the prime minister that there should be a law regulating the details of film production, however nothing has been done. So directors now also function as producers, since traditional cinema has died. This has resulted in such important directors as Kaplanoglou and Ceylan being forced to make their own productions since there are no more classical producers”.

Then he spoke about his time in exile. “Exile inevitably makes a man deal with himself, while giving him the time to also deal with society. While I was self-exiled in Berlin, I looked at Turkey from afar, trying to understand why all these things were happening. But I don’t believe in nostalgia, all this experience of exile benefited me and I tried not to succumb to this disease called “nostalgia””, he noted. Mr. Kiral also spoke about the racial issues faced by his country: “I’ve paid particular attention to the issue of language. For example, Kurdish used to be banned. Language is a very important thing, and in the film A Season in Hakkari I tried to highlight this problem through the message that even though everyone doesn’t speak the same language, they can coexist peacefully. In Turkey there has been a mosaic of people living there that hasn’t been destroyed and must not be destroyed. All this is very difficult to be reflected in a film, as the situation in southeast Turkey remains difficult. Personally, I choose to exaggerate a bit, because otherwise it would be like making a news film. When I put my own΄΄flavor΄΄in a movie, this reality is transformed into cinema”.

Speaking about his future plans, Erden Kiral revealed that he is starting a new film, while he explained that in spite of his admiration for the documentary genre he will continue making fiction films. Then the conversation returned to the shoot of The Mirror in Andros. “A producer from Athens had taken on the production, in collaboration with quite a few French and Germans. Our Greek collaborators belonged to the Communist party union, and what I remember most vividly was that after 8 hours the Greeks would leave work and then ask for overtime pay, something which is, of course, correct!”, he explained. Ending the press conference, Mr. Dimitri Eipides thanked Erden Kiral for his presence at the 52nd TIFF and noted that today’s discussion was "a good film lesson".

Press release  of  Thessaloniki International Film Festival
  A Season in Hakkari
  On The Road
  On Fertile Lands
  Erden Kiral
  52nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival
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