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Oscar hopeful Kaplanoğlu introduces ‘spiritual realism’

Wednesday 19 January 2011, by Sertaç Dalgalidere

Semih Kaplanoğlu, the director of Turkey’s entrant in this year’s foreign language Oscar race, is already one of the most eminent directors of Turkish cinema, breathing new life into the industry during the past decade with his internationally recognized dramas.

The director, through the dramas in his self-proclaimed style he calls “spiritual realism,” calls on viewers to “reflect on reality in a different light.” Likewise, his Berlinale champion “Bal” (Honey), which is currently long-listed for the foreign language film Oscar, was also made in the same style.

“Through this [style] I believe we [Turkish filmmakers] can establish a cinematic language through which we can easily and freely relate our very own roots, and one through which we can relate the realities of the past together with the realities of the present day,” says Kaplanoğlu, an international award collector for his Trilogy of Yusuf, which concludes with “Bal.”

Still, Kaplanoğlu notes that “spiritual realism is not a filmmaking movement.” “I see this rather as a path. And I believe we filmmakers have to continue working on establishing the kind of language I’m talking about,” he says.

The director, who also won praise both nationally and internationally for his “Yumurta” (Egg) and “Süt” (Milk), the first and second installments of the trilogy, recounts the story of the making of the trilogy in a special set made up of three DVDs and a book, released in December by Timaş Publishing. The book features a biographical interview with Kaplanoğlu, conducted by film critic Uygar Şirin, in which he tells of his life and his cinematic outlook as well as the five-year period during which he completed his trilogy. The book, titled “Yusuf’un Rüyası” (Joseph’s Dream), is also accompanied by the DVDs of the entire trilogy and a bonus DVD.

“Bal” is among 60 films long listed from around the world for this year’s Academy Awards in the best foreign language film category, whose five nominees will be announced on Jan. 25. Kaplanoğlu says he sees “Bal’s” chances of securing a spot on the shortlist equal with the other 59 entrants. “I’m not without hope, but I’m not too excited either. It’s still too early to speak right now, but I just hope that our film is announced among the first five on Jan. 25,” he added.

‘Reminding us of reality’

Kaplanoğlu argues that “the reason for modern day people’s problems is that they are not able to comprehend reality” and that cinema can serve as “a means of showing people what reality is.”

“Art and movies can make us recall the true reality we belong to, they can make us sense it. That’s why I try to include anecdotes that hint at concepts [religious narratives] in my films,” he explains. Kaplanoğlu says the scene in the first film where Yusuf, the lead character in the trilogy, falls in a well, is an allusion to the narrative of Prophet Joseph in one sura in the Quran. Another allusion to Quranic narratives Kaplanoğlu used in the trilogy is in the final installment, which follows the early days of Yusuf as he goes searching in the forest for his lost father, whose name is Yakup — the Turkish spelling of Jacob.

“Anatolian people are already familiar with these narratives,” Kaplanoğlu says, adding that the reason he uses these allusions in his films is that he wants to remind viewers of these narratives. He says: “Reality is something directly associated with God. Through acknowledging God … we discover our own reality. … My intent is to make films that will help the knowledge that we already have inside us to resurface.”

The trilogy, filmed in reverse order, follows the childhood, teenage days and adulthood of Yusuf the poet. Asked why he chose the titles “Egg,” “Milk” and “Honey” for the films, Kaplanoğlu says the titles “suggest ... human nature through the purest products of nature … that are essentially as pure as human nature.”

“‘Eggs symbolize future or adulthood; milk symbolizes late teenage years, a young man leaving his home, separating from his mother; while honey, a magical product of nature, [symbolizes] the spirit of a child,” he explains.

“My initial plan in setting out on this endeavor was to introduce something that will create a pleasant mood in the viewers. I guess I managed that,” Kaplanoğlu says.

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Source : TdZ, 10 January 2011, Monday

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