Raşit Çelikezer's Can (2011)

From April 27 until May 10, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will host the largest retrospective of films from Turkey ever shown in the United States, co-presented by the Moon and Stars Project of The American Turkish Society. Aptly titled “The Space Between: A Panorama of Cinema in Turkey,” the series includes films from the Yeşilçam period, socially and politically conscious films, literary adaptations, commercial films and Turkey's own auteurs.

Frequently referred to as the bridge between East and West, Turkey's cinema also benefits from this crossroads of culture and tradition, which creates a unique and rich brand of storytelling. Film Society Program Director Richard Peña explains the theme behind the selection: “This 29-film series focuses especially on the many socially-engaged works—works often made under difficult and even dangerous conditions—that offered a counterpoint to Turkey's prolific commercial cinema.”

The series gets started Friday with the New York premiere of Raşit Çelikezer's family drama Can (2011). Unable to conceive a child, a couple in Istanbul resorts to illegal means to buy one, only to face the hardships of becoming an actual family. Turkey's first film to be accepted into the Sundance Film Festival, Can won the fest's Special Jury Prize for Artistic Vision. Director Çelikezer will be in person for a post-screening Q&A at this special Opening Night event!

Yılmaz Güney's Yol (1982)

“The Space Between” will have a special focus on the films of Yılmaz Güney's, including Hope (Umut, 1970) Elegy (Ağıt, 1971), Yol (The Road, 1982), and Lütfi Ö. Akad's The Law of the Border (Hudutların Kanunu, 1966), in which he had a starring role. Although Güney catapulted into Turkish cinema with his acting—later immortalizing his iconic status as “The Ugly King (Çirkin Kral)” of Turkish cinema—he was also a talented director and screenwriter.

Hope marked the start of Güney's homage to the life and hardships of the Anatolian countryside as well as the creation of politically charged films during an era when Turkey was in a social and political turmoil. When Cabbar (played by Güney himself) is forced to quit driving his horse-drawn wagon, he desperately embarks on a hidden treasure hunt with the support of a hodja, or mystic. Although Hope was banned in Turkey for twenty years, a copy of the film reached the Cannes Film Festival, resulting in great acclaim. Elegy recounts the epic journey of Çobanoğlu (Güney), the leader of a Southeastern smuggler gang, who makes a miraculous escape from the hands of the police but is trapped within a vicious cycle of corruption.

Probably the most famous out of all Yılmaz Güney's films—and definitely a must-see in the series—is Yol, written by Güney while he was in jail for harboring anarchist students and directed by Şerif Gören, his friend and frequent collaborator. Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Yol is a detailed study of five prisoners given a week's home leave. In addition to portraying prisoners' caged lives and struggles in and out of prison, the film vividly depicts the atmosphere in Turkey and the lives of the Turkish people after the 1980 military coup d'etat. Yol was banned in Turkey until 1999.

Fatih Akın's Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (2005)

The perpetually mysterious, vibrant and ever-changing music of İstanbul take center stage in Fatih Akın's (Head On, The Edge of Heaven) fabulous documentary Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (2005). A city that sits on the crossroads of Europe and Asia, İstanbul has developed a rich and diverse musical tradition that is totally unique. Rappers, Roma musicians, neo-psychedelic bands, Turkish classical and folk singers, rock and fusion bands, traditional Kurdish singers and philosophic street performers all appear in Akın's doc and contribute to the soundscape of the city it depicts.

A very different film about Istanbul comes in the form of director Ferzan Özpetek's Steam: The Turkish Bath (Hamam, 1997). In his debut feature film, Özpetek uses the traditional Turkish bath, or hamam, as a setpiece for the cultural discoveries and sexual awakening that a young Italian designer experiences when he comes to İstanbul to sell the hamam he inherited from an aunt whom he'd never met. Tunç Başaran's cult classic Don't Let Them Shoot the Kite (Uçurtmayı Vurmasınlar, 1989) is yet another showpiece of İstanbul, in this case focusing on the lives of female prisoners and a young boy who grows up with them.

One cannot talk about Turkish cinema without mentioning Yeşilçam (“green pine”), derived from famous Yeşilçam Street in İstanbul where many of the cast and crew members were based. Analogous to Hollywood, Yeşilçam was the word used to describe films that were made in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Notable Yeşilçam films included in the series are Metin Erksan's Revenge of the Snakes (Yılanların Öcü, 1962), a notable example of social realism that depicts a farmer's property dispute with his neighbors, and Dry Summer (Susuz Yaz, 1963)—winner of the Golden Bear at the 1964 Berlin Film Festival—a drama pitting familial against communal duty. Another film to note is Atıf Yılmaz's The Girl With the Red Scarf (Selvi Boylum Al Yazmalım, 1977), a melodramatic yet sensitive love story of an estranged couple that is perhaps the most famous and enduring Turkish film of all time. The film's screenwriter Ali Özgentürk will participate in a post-screening Q&A.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Climates (2006)

The series also offers a selection of films by Turkey's contemporary auteurs, whose films have graced international film festivals and art cinemas to great acclaim. New York Film Festival favorite Nuri Bilge Ceylan returns with Climates (2006), his deeply personal analysis of male-female relationships that stars the director, himself, alongside his wife Ebru Ceylan. Zeki Demirkubuz's psychological drama Confession (İtiraf, 2002), Yeşim Ustaoğlu's Journey to the Sun (Güneşe Yolculuk, 1999, director in person for Q&A), and Reha Erdem's mystical and wild Kosmos (2010) will also screen.

Future Lasts Forever (2011), from up-and-coming director Özcan Alper, is the series's Closing Night film on May 10. Alper, whose Autumn screened at New Directors/New Films in 2009, returns with a story of an ethnomusicologist who travels to southeast Turkey to record music and confront her past. The film also explores the touchy subject of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict that has plagued the nation for years. The filmmaker will be in person for a post-screening Q&A.

The Space Between: The Trajectory of Cinema in Turkey” is a free event on April 29! Join film scholars Fatih Özgüven and Zeynep Dadak, filmmaker Raşit Çelikezer and others as they discuss the past, present and future of Turkish cinema.

Do not miss this rare opportunity to see some of the greatest Turkish films of all time in the largest such collection of its kind! “The Space Between: A Panorama of Cinema in Turkey” runs from April 27 through May 10. For a full lineup and schedule, or to buy tickets, head to the series page. Member tickets start at just $8 and you can see four films for the price of three with our special package offer!