Friday, 25 January 2013

Gender, Family and Home(land) in Contemporary Turkish Cinema

In a recent article co-written with Özlem Güçlü, Cuneyt Cakirlar explored the meaning of gender, family and (home)land in contemporary Turkish cinema. 

In this research, they argue that Turkish cinema went through a significant process of change during the 1990s when a number of rising directors began depicting the suffocations of marginalized people in low budget minimalistic films. The films of the period, canonized as “New Turkish Cinema”, continually revolve around the issues of home(land) and belonging, and ‘reveal tensions, anxieties, and dilemmas around the questions of belonging, identity, and memory in contemporary Turkish society’ (Suner, 2010). In these films, home is not the haven that it was in the earlier Turkish cinema, but is associated with trauma, violence and horror. The works of the directors of the New Turkish Cinema is thus often associated with the major accented themes of homelessness, home-seeking and/or homecomings, and the aesthetic emphases on claustrophobic interiors, urban landscapes and liminal spaces. Even though these directors cannot be considered as diasporic or exilic, considering the political, economic and social climate of Turkey, their works might be taken as a critical response to the post-junta transition in the homeland. Home is often portrayed as an uncanny figure, a locus of threat and horror where ‘homelessness’ is a constant threat and/or the home is immersed in (mostly gender based) violence, crime and horror. 

The article aims to explore the shifting critical agendas of contemporary Turkish cinema in the last decade. By focusing on the recent works of three auteur directors, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Reha Erdem and Umit Unal, the authors discuss the representational dynamics of gender, home(land) and family which, we contend, are central conceptual tools to investigate their cinematic discourse of resistance against the dominant representational regimes within Turkish visual culture. This project will treat the directors' playful appropriations of masculinities and heterosexualities in their narrative agendas, as significant objects that resists – via allegory, exposure, estrangement and ambivalence – the contemporary politics of identification with gender and nation in Turkey. In this regard, depictions of family relations and home play a central role in our case studies. The urban/rural landscape and interior spaces act as microcosms of nation and home in the directors' cinematic agenda. The study contains in-depth readings of Ceylan's Three Monkeys (2008), Erdem's Hayat Var (2008) and Unal's Golgesizler (2009). They argue that these three films offer a comparative framework that presents effectively the recent change in the critical pattern of alternative filmmaking in Turkey and trigger possibilities for understanding the gender-specific peculiarities of the contemporary film practice.
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Cuneyt Cakirlar and Özlem Güçlü, “Gender, Family and Home(land) in Contemporary Turkish Cinema: A Comparative Analysis of Films by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Reha Erdem and Ümit Ünal,” in Resistance in Contemporary Middle Eastern Cultures: Literature, Cinema and Music, edited by Karima Laachir and Saeed R. Talajooy, London: Routledge, 2012, 167-83.

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