One of the most talked about Turkish films "Benim ve Roz’un Sonbaharı" (Roz’s and My Autumn) touches on many issues of debate in contemporary Turkey.
Directed by Handan Öztürk, a new name to the film world, the film was shot in the south of Turkey: Batman, Hasankeyf and Mardin.
Many of the featured actors themselves come from Batman and Diyarbakır, except Serkan Altunorak, Öznur Kula, Serra Yılmaz, and Mürsel Emektar.
The film, which began screening on May 1, is based on a story of a journalist who publishes a local newspaper with the support of a few acquaintances to save Hasankeyf, a 10,000 year old settlement, from being flooded to accommodate a dam that is being planned in the area. The film tool two years to make.
According to Öztürk, the film is a story of defeat, yet it includes the yearning of the desire for a victory. The director was so committed to finishing the film that she even sold her house to continue funding the project, after she was left without a producer halfway through filming. "Apart from all the difficulties the natural conditions were challenging," she said.
Shooting with the locals
The team had to battle the famous sand storms of the Middle East. The crowded scenes were shot during a storm and everyone in the set was worn out. Besides all these factors, combat aircraft were flying to Iraq every hour and in the second year of filming they found themselves in the middle of the conflict in the southeast. Öztürk wanted to shoot the whole movie with local people.
"I went to Hasankeyf to choose the actors and made at least 500 trial shots. I decided to chose the characters that I could not match during that casting were completed after a casting with real actors," she said and added that there were also actors who joined the team from various theaters in Diyarbakır. Roz, the character of the little girl, is from Diyarbakır and Soreş, the ambitious little boy is from Hasankeyf. Öztürk fell in love with Hasankeyf on a day when she arrived to visit the area. "The sun was setting in this amazing environment, with manmade caves and the Tigris flowing," she said.
She started off with the idea of filming a documentary about the self-annihilation of Batman women, yet after the stories she listened to she felt that she would not be able to reflect the tragedy. "It was more than suicides. Family backgrounds and tragedies made it impossible for me to start my career with such a film," she said. Öztürk always wanted to be a skier, yet her father did not allow her to chase her dream. Thats why she happened to pass by Yeşilçam, not the Alps. Her background is years of experience in the media. Yet her life changed after she began doing consultancy work for documentary film makers and she started filming documentaries herself. But Öztürk thinks filming a documentary in Turkey is a hard job and furthermore, that there are restrictions to making a documentary.
"I realized making a film allowed freedom just like playing in a playground. One can create thousands of worlds in movies. And that’s the most enjoyable part about cinema," Öztürk said.
When asked if she planned the date of the screening before the vital desicion on the Ilısu Dam being built Öztürk said no. "I did not have a strategy like that but if it could help save Hasankeyf I’d be more than delighted and grateful. During the shooting of the movie the team did not face any difficulties created by the local government. Furthermore the governorship of Batman supported us, Öztürk said and added: "Whoever sees the beauty of Hasankeyf would do his or her best to stop the dam project even if they had to support the steps taken by the government as a matter of duty."
Magical fairy tale
Öztürk calls the film a magical fairy tale that includes a though reality. "This is my style: to mix the simple true facts with fantasy," Öztürk said. The movie does not have a happy ending. Hasankeyf locals give up and they migrate. According to the director the scenes may create an example of the pain the locals are enduring. And she hopes that they might reconsider their decision.
Öztürk, who ingrains gender issues, war and other political issues in the movie, is planning to take a shot at a women related movie for her second film.