In its latest feature The Gusto Project was honoured and fortunate to host special guests Emin Alper and Tolga Karaçelik, two critically acclaimed film directors from Turkey. Johnathan Andrews alongside co-hosts Dyke Moru and Lebo Magolego, discussed with Alper and Karaçelik their beginnings in film, past projects and motivations for producing projects in the manner in which they do.
The interview gave great insight into the minds of two leading pioneers in Turkish cinema today. To begin with Alper himself relayed the tale of how he studied civil engineering and later finance at the Boğaziçi University in İstanbul (the Harvard of Turkey). These fields of study did not interest him as Alper had been an avid fan of film since the age of 16, when he first watched Time of the Gypsies (1988) directed by Emir Kusturica. Alper later received his PhD in Modern Turkish History. Alper released his first feature, Beyond the Hill (2012), a supernatural thriller. Alper also touched on how real life situations he has witnessed e.g. clashes in Turkey between rival factions whether communal, social or religious serve as themes in his films. Beyond the Hill (2012) for example tells the story of two communities located on opposite ends of a hill and their distaste for each other. Alper’s latest film Frenzy (2015) is a political thriller that follows two brothers on their separate paths of life after being released from prison. The film won and was nominated for numerous awards throughout film festivals in Europe.
Tolga Karaçelik studied film in New York and before that was a law student at Marmara University in İstanbul. One topic of interest that came up in the interview was Karaçelik working 8 hour shifts at a toll booth over several days. This experiment was imperative for understanding the everyday experience of a toll booth operator that would serve as the protagonist in his debut feature Toll Booth (2012). In his words it took physically experiencing a toll booth operator’s struggles and frustrations to produce a realistic portrayal of such an existence. Several members of the Gusto Project team were also afforded the opportunity to attend a screening of Karaçelik’s latest film Ivy (2015) hosted at Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank this past Friday (10 June). The film has already premiered at the Sundance film festival. Ivy (2015) revolves around a cargo ship crew stranded off the Egyptian coast as the cargo company has filed for bankruptcy. The film is a blend of the supernatural and the dramatic. Ivy (2015) won and was nominated for several awards at several festivals including a nomination for best world drama at the Sundance film festival.
To close off both Alper and Karaçelik emphasised believing in one’s vision and trusting one’s ability in their creative process and craft. Making films to collect awards should never be a filmmaker’s purpose for creating and directing films. As Karaçelik put it: “you are either a director or you are not, there is no in between”.