Adana Golden Boll FF 2011: Dervis Zaim Interview

By Alin Tasciyn

    ADANA: FNE spoke to Adana Golden Boll FF jury president and distinguished Turkish filmmaker Dervis Zaim on the occassion of the retrospective of his films presented in Adana.


    FNE: There were many first films competing for the Golden Boll. What is your opinion of the selection in general?

    There were many different films which made us, the jury think carefully about our decision. We have taken this variety in consideration. Because I believe in variety. Even though I have a certain attitude towards cinema I truly believe in variety. Filmmakers who have different paths in cinema should also continue their ways parallel to mine.

    FNE: How different were the films from each other?

    There are minimalistic films. There are films which try to explore the contents of the cinema, trying to change the traditional forms. There are classical films. In terms of content we observe mainly alienation in the urban world and rural feudal problems. There are many politically oriented films. I believe that social problems are especially taken into consideration and there is a strong inclination to discuss them through cinema. I can say that in terms of content and form there is an ongoing search and this is healthy. I cannot say that all of the films have high quality but at least half of them are above a certain level and I am very positive about the selection.


    FNE: What point in your career do you think you have reached in the light of this retrospective in Adana Golden Boll Film Festival?

    I believe that a retrospective is useful to re-evaluate yourself. I try to see my filmography as an ongoing process. It is not so well defined. You cannot specify, imagine or know exactly what will happen next, each time you see it. But this is a good quality because life changes and you also change, depending on your encounters with your life. I don't know what will happen after this point. But having said this I can add that I try to explore the cinematic language, and problems through this geography and history, which are the two main dimensions of my filmography.

    FNE: You have a consistency of style and themes. Do you consider your films as a continuation of each other?

    In a way yes, there is a consistency. But I try not to repeat myself in any terms. I try to refresh myself.

    FNE: Your first film "Summersault in a Coffin" has been a great success all around the world. It won 25 awards. Is it also a special film for you?

    Of course, it is my first film and it wasn't easy to make it. It is a guerilla production. I have a deep bond with this film. After this one I tried to make more daring experiments in a cultural context. I am happy that now all of my films can be watched altogether so that my filmography can be located in a context.

    FNE: You are considered as one of the most characteristic Turkish filmmakers in terms of your style. Is it because you combine traditional art forms with contemporary cinema or is it because of the multi-layered structure of your films dealing with the geographical and historical facts?

    Freedom can be a good starting point, a good concept to understand or interpret the films, I guess. Freedom helps me to depict power relations. Power relations in this geographical and historical context helps me to explore history and culture and to establish my cinema on this platform. I believe, history and culture makes you who you are. So I think exploring freedom, asking questions on freedom requires a filmmaker to pass through the corridors of historical and cultural contexts... So that more complete, more niche, more delicate questions may occur. I try to ask myself questions rather than giving definite answers. I am highlighting this position in my films. Some audiences may feel that my films haven't given compact answers to their questions. They feel that something is blurred, something is grey, but this is life! This is the correct attitude towards life, the correct attitude that represents life in Turkey.

    FNE: You are one of the founders of the new Turkish cinema alongside with Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Zeki Demirkubuz, Yesim Ustaoglu, Kutlug Ataman, Reha Erdem... Your films led to the renovation and restoration process of the Turkish cinema. Where do you think this movement has arrived? Has it reached a level that you hope will inspire younger generations?

    In terms of inspiration or encouragement, I can say we reached our goal. But if we ask ourselves whether the newcomers of the Turkish cinema go in one direction, whether it has a vector or not the answer would be negative. In a way this is good. To have a Soviet type of style, a one way attitude is dangerous. It keeps you in a situation in which you cannot explore life. Different attitudes altogether in the same period can represent life more authentically. There are different perspectives and these perspectives at the same time and space help us to express life in a better way. I sometimes think there should be a blueprint in Turkish cinema! There certainly are different paths. But it is not easy to describe which path the newcomers follow. I try to create a corridor for them, to be a sort of blueprint, a passage to history and culture related cinema. This is not the one and only corridor, there should be others beside me and this is healthy for the cinema. I believe that our improvement will continue and we will create a rich and healthy cinema.

    FNE: What are the most problematic points in filmmaking in Turkish film?

    The main problem remains the script. You cannot separate problems from each other when analyzing a film but script writing should be given priority. Creating a text which should be consistent in itself, to develop its content and structure uniquely throughout the film is very important. There are very good first acts, but second and third acts are underdevelopped for example.

    FNE: Not only as the jury president but as a filmmaker and a cinephile, were you able to like the films? Apart from the obligation to make choices did you have favourite films?

    Yes. I am happy that I watched this selection and I liked a couple of the films. It is not easy to find good films nowadays!

    FNE: Our new cinema is maybe too politically engaged... Where does our cinema stand in your opinion? Do our films have freedom of expression? Are they militant?

    Even if some of them are too militant, it is healthy! We should accept that there are militant films, otherwise there wouldn't be any saturation of information about politics. In the short run or long run we will need those kinds of films. Fifteen years ago we couldn't express these opinions so easily and freely! So I think there is an improvement of expression, in finding ways, possibilities and resources to make films which question the society and its problems. This is a political development. But I am not saying that we are in heaven or in a perfect state of freedom. We still have problems but if you compare it to the last 20 years we definitely have gone a long way.

    Sponsored by Adana Golden Boll Film Festival