Cinema in Turkey
The beginnings of cinema in Turkey seem to go back to approximately a year after the Lumiére brothers gave their first show on December 22, 1895. The then Ottoman Empire was introduced to this fabulous art in the Palace and a beer hall in Istanbul. Although cinema came to Turkey without a long delay, film-making came along much later. After 1914, when the first film in Turkey (produced for the army at the beginning of the First World War, by a reserve army officer, Fuat Uzkinay, under the direction of the Turkish military command) was made, Turkish cinema encountered many difficulties.
Turkish film-making came to turning point in 1922, when the stage actor Muhsin Ertugrul, who had been directing films in Germany since 1916, set up his own private film company Kemal Film. His film based on the novel "Atesten Gömlek" by Halide Edip Adivar was the first that dealt with the War of Independence. It was also the first film in which Muslim Turkish women (Bedia Muvahhit and Neyyire Neyir), acted.
Between 1923 and 1939, theatre actors dominated the Turkish film industry and one of the most important films of the time "Bir Millet Uyaniyor", directed by Muhsin Ertuğrul, is considered one of the most valuable of Turkish films (1932).
From 1940 onwards, there was a period of growth, and film companies such as Ha-Ka Film, Istanbul Film, Atlas Film were established. Film producers also began to give more attention and importance to establishing their own film sets and studios. During this period the cinema industry began to form its own professional institutions, and in 1946, the "Domestic Film Producers' Association" and the "Cinema and Film Producers' Association" were established. With a change in municipality tax laws in 1948, a boost was given to the film industry, as taxes were reduced to 25% for films made and directed in Turkey. 1939 to 1950 could be seen as the transition period, when efforts were made to do away with using stage actors in films.
During the 1950's, the number and quality of films increased and the industry began to take on a shape of its own. Directors like Lütfi Akad, Atif Yilmaz, Metin Erksan, Memduh Ün and Osman Seden came to the fore. In 1952, these were followed by new directors, foremost among whom were Nejat Saydam, Nevzat Pesen, Orhan Aksoy and Hulki Saner.
In 1961, Istanbul Municipality organized a "Domestic Film Contest", wherein Memduh Ün's film "Kirik Çanaklar" won the award. In 1963 a film entitled "Sehirdeki Yabanci" directed by Halit Refig, starring Nilüfer Aydan, was awarded the "Mention of Honour".
During these years younger producers began to give more weight to films dealing with social issues and "Karanlikta Uyananlar" directed by Ertem Göreç was the first film that dealt with a strike in a paint factory. In 1964, Halit Refig directed an interesting film called "Gurbet Kuslari" on migration within the country. Again in 1964, Metin Erksan won a gold medal at the Berlin Film Festival with "Susuz Yaz", which dealt with village life and was also awarded the "Merito Biennali" in Venice.
In 1965, 213 full length feature films were produced, which led to an unavoidable explosion of poor quality films, due to lack of really a sound basis in the industry. This was a time when the industry outgrew its strength and exploitation was rampant, with second rate films flooding the market, although some were good such as Duygu Sagiroglu's "Bitmeyen Yol", Feyzi Tuna's first work "Yasak Sokaklar", Abdurrahman Palay's "Isyancilar", Atif Yilmaz's "Murad'in Türküsü" and Metin Erksan's "Sevmek Zamani". The Turkish Cinématheque Society was also founded in 1965.
In 1966 when a record number of 240 films was produced, the actor Yilmaz Güney produced his first film "At, Avrat, Silah" and Lütfi Akad created "Hudutlarin Kanunu" in which Yilmaz Güney both acted and wrote the script.
In the 1970s film production increased and the era of black and white films came to an end. The film industry was also negatively affected by the sweeping growth of television and economic and political developments, and many companies had to struggle to stay in business. The industry had to fight for years to regain its popularity. Producers like Yilmaz Güney, Lütfi Akad, Tunç Okan, Zeki Ökten, Erden Kral and Yavuz Özkan gained much international recognition for their valuable work.
To this line of directors, new ones were added in the 1980's, which included leading producers such as Ali Özgentürk, Ömer Kavur, Sinan Çetin, Serif Gören, Yavuz Turgul, and Zülfü Livaneli. Directors of the old school such as Atif Yilmaz and Tunç Basaran also made some fine films. In recent years, aside from films on social problems there has been a trend to stress individuality, especially the female's search for identity and a surge of popularity for comedy films.
In 1986, steps taken in search of innovations in the cinema resulted in some 20 high quality films that brought a fresh look into Turkish cinema and once more drew audiences. New laws on cinema, video and music were passed by the government.
High quality and well-produced films continued to grow in number in 1987, with more emphasis being placed on good direction rather than on star material. The Cinema d'Auter was strengthened and revitalized with new faces and directors. That year another professional association was formed, "The Professional Union of Cinema Works Owners". In 1988, the Cinema Actors' Association was founded.
The Ministry of Culture was instrumental in getting certain projects off the ground, solving problems and setting up a workable infrastructure for the future. The Cinema Council, which was first organized in 1990 had to treat the cinema as a branch of the industrial sectors, and to obtain a new tax deal especially for film companies. Other aspects that were given new importance was a better deal for those employed in the cinema industry which involved a new law and later new incentives for introducing bigger and better cinemas throughout the country. For many years, Turkish films lacked the necessary order and legal measures which were needed to enter international markets, which was also due to the inability to meet international standards in the way of technology.
In 1990, 75 films were produced. Although there was a notable decrease in the number of films produced , there was however an increase in quality encouraged by the Ministry of Culture which also arranged a congress on Turkish Cinema. "Minyeli Abdullah" by Yücel Çakmaklı was an example of the increasingly popular Islamic cinema. The film set a new country-wide box-office record. "Berdel" by Atif Yilmaz received the CICAC award at the 41st International Berlin Cinema Festival. With the participation of 203 experts from the cinema, press, universities and business circles, the Turkish Cinema and Audiovisual Culture Foundation was established.
In 1991, 33 films were produced. For political reasons, Kurdish epics were the themes dealt with in some films like "Siyabend ile Heço" by Şahin Gök, "Mem u Zın" by Ümit Elçi, the first examples of their kind. Due to a lack of financial resources, the Ankara Film Festival was not organized that year. At the Orleon Film Festival, a week was dedicated to films in which Türkan Ţoray played the leading roles.
In 1992, 38 films were produced out of which only 12 were released. "Mavi Sürgün" by Erden Kıral, supported by the Ministry of Culture and Eurimages, was the most expensive of all Turkish films produced until that year. The Adana Golden Cocoon Film festival was revived after a long interval. The Yılmaz Güney Art Foundation was established.
In 1993, 83 films were produced. The Ankara Art Foundation awarded Agah Özgüç for his publications on cinema. The Cinema writers Foundation (SİYAP), closed down after the 12 September 1980 coup, was re-established. "Amerikalı" by Şerif Gören, set a box office record that year.
In 1994, Turkish cinema was in difficulties because Turkish producers could barely find enough suitable cinemas to screen films. Most of the films produced that year were designed for television in preference to cinemas. The IFSAK cinema award was presented to Mahmut Tali Öngeren that year. A "cinema days" week was organized in Manisa. Türkan Ţoray was presented with the Kyrgyzstan International Aytmatov Club award. "Bir Sonbahar Hikayesi" by Yavuz Özkan, was presented with best film awards both at the 6th Ankara Film Festival and the 13th İstanbul International Film Festival. The same year, at the 6th İzmir Film Festival, the "Golden Artemis" award was presented to Nijat Özin for his books on cinema.