Yeşilçam Cinema



Yeşilçam Cinema
The art of cinematography has fascinated many great  directors 
since  their  youth, 
exactly  as  we 
have  seen  in 
the  classic  film, 
Cinema  Paradiso  (1998) 
by  the  Italian 
director Giuseppe Tornatore. In this film, narrated by Tornatore, we
learn the story of  one  great 
Italian  director  returning 
to  the  small 
Sicilian  village  where 
he  grew  up, 
to  re-discover  his 
childhood  love  of 
watching  movies  at 
the  little  theatre 
there, an experience that inspired him to become a filmmaker. An
occasion of art imitating  his  life, 
Tornatore  echoed  this 
theme in two later films, Malena (2000) and Baaria (2009).The           Turkish           director    Cem   
Kaya    might   have  
a   back-ground  similar 
that  of  Tornatore 
and  the  plot 
of Cinema  Paradiso  but Kaya 
chose,  instead,  to 
make   a   documentary  
about   the   films  
that   influenced   him  
rather   than     providing     an    
autobiographical     film     about his own life. Kaya moved  to 
Germany  with  his 
parents  when   he  
was   a   child  
and   grew   up  
watching  Turkish  films 
on  VHS  tapes 
rented  from  video 
clubs  that  were 
often  set  in 
a  corner  inside 
Turkish  grocery  stores throughout German cities.Kaya later
became a film editor and then  the  director 
of  the  Remake 
Remix  Rip-Off  documentary 
that  shows  how 
Turkish  films  made 
in  the  sixties 
and  seventies of the last century
lacked logical plots   and   technical  
aspects.   Extreme   violence or exaggerated melodrama
char-acterized these Turkish films, mindlessly and  laughably 
imitating  American  films 
of  the  era. 
Kaya  kept  on 
seeing  more  and 
more  of  these  films,  called 
Yesilcam  Cinema, after a street
by the same name located at Beyoglu district of the Turkish capital Istanbul.
Filmmakers and stars of the era use to live on Yesilcam and this is where Kaya
went to meet dozens of them for the interviews of his documentary.Using  a 
quick  editing  style, 
navi-gating  between  the 
current  interviews  and 
bits  and  pieces 
from  footage  of 
the  films,  Kaya 
explains  how  Yesilcam 
Cinema   lacked   the  
budget   to   create  
innovative scripts and this drove its direc-tors  and 
screenwriters  to  remake 
films  from all over the world. So
viewers were exposed  to  Turkish 
versions  of  Tarzan, Dracula,  The 
Wizard  of  Oz, 
The  Exorcist, Rambo,  Superman, 
Star Wars,  James Bond, Flash  Gordon, 
Zorro  and  many 
others,  readapted  to 
suit  local  audience 
across  rural Anatolia
districts.The   proliferation   of  
television   in   Turkey 
in  the  mid-seventies 
along  with  the weak financial and structural aspects of
these films brought the Yesilcam genre to an end. At that time, there was no
film institute  in  Turkey, 
no  laboratories  for 
processing  and  printing 
of  films  and 
no  production  values 
or  equipment.  All 
the  directors  and 
scriptwriters  did  was 
meet  the  demands 
of  the  public 
by  recycling  the 
same  stories  over 
and  over  again. 
Plots  such  as  the  poor 
young  man  who 
falls in love with rich girl, the story of two brothers  separated 
at  birth  or  the  rural 
countryside  boy  who 
comes  to  big 
city  proliferated.  The 
directors  of  Yesilcam 
also benefited from the lack of copyright laws,  ripping 
off  story  lines 
and  music  soundtracks.Among the film interviewees,
Turkish director Cetin Inanc appears and describes how  he 
helmed  his  sci-fi 
Turkish  movie  The Man Who Saved the World (1982) with
action star of the era Cuneyt Arkin. Inanc did not have enough money to create
the visual effects for a film that mixed the plots of Star Wars and Flash
Gordon. So what did he  do?  He 
bribed  a  film 
theater  clerk  to 
“lend” him the copy of Star Wars, playing locally  and 
sliced  some  scenes 
featuring  spaceships  to 
add  to  his 
own  film.  Inanc, 
who  is  quite 
funny,  then  explains 
how  he  was 
invited  to  Columbia 
University  in  New 
York  to  talk 
about  this  film 
in  par-ticular  in 
front  of  hundreds 
of  students  of 
cinema  who  were 
eagerly  asking  him 
about his filmmaking process. The young enthusiastic students thought
his film was a work of a genius.Yesilcam   
Cinema    began    disap-pearing  when 
American  films  started 
to   dominate   Turkish  
theaters   during   the 
early  eighties  but 
was  saved  in 
its  last  days 
when  its  directors 
started  to  produce  
some   musical   films  
starring   older  singers, 
a  subgenre  that 
was  nick-named  “Arabesque 
Drama.”  During  the 
following years, many new laws for copy-right and syndication were
implemented while  new  generations 
of  filmmakers  were  
born,   who   eventually  
presented   new  cinematic 
trends  and  more 
mature  films.  However, 
due  the  absence 
of  an  underlying 
strong  production  structure 
and  sound  archival 
procedures  within  the 
Yesilcam  Industry,  many 
film  posi-tives  and 
negatives  were  lost 
for  various  reasons 
whether  poor  storage 
or  bad  accidents. 
The  rest  were 
sold  in  quanti-ties 
to  several  German 
companies  for  redistribution.Cem Kaya spent seven years
making this  film,  in 
the  process  meeting 
dozens  of  Yeslicam 
directors  and  film 
stars  of  Yesilcam 
to  synthesize  them 
into  his  valuable 
and  quite  funny 
documentary,  Remake, Remix,
Rip-Off.

Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
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