How does the world breathe now?
Session N°24 03.05.2017 19:00
With Zeynep Tuna and Nino Klingler
film Savulun Battal Gazi 1973 99 minutes
by Natuk Baytan
Language Turkish simultaneous translation provided if necessary
Little known outside of Turkey, during the period from (roughly) the mid-1960s until the late 1970s, the domestic movie industry of the country, generally called Yeşilçam experienced a colorful boom. With yearly production numbers routinely surpassing 150 films, the low-budget mainstream movies generally followed standard genre-templates of love, gangster and fantasy stories which were often directly stolen from Hollywood, French, Italian and Chinese productions.
One of the defining faces of the era was the omnipresent Cüneyt Arkin, who according to website SinemaTürk starred in over 300 films. After starting his career in the early 1960s as a romantic, blue eyed Jön (from French: Jeune) he is mostly remembered today as a Turkish action star; proficient in Martial Arts, Horse-Riding, gun-slinging and everything in between.
One of Arkin’s genre mainstays was the fantastic-historic swashbuckler set in (pre-)Ottoman times. In a number of aesthetically interchangeable films, he has impersonated some of the most iconic pop-cultural figures of Turkish history, including Battal Gazi, Malkoçoglu or Kara Murat.
Savulun Battal Gazi Geliyor is both a paradigmatic example of those films and a feverish, almost otherworldly culmination of their basic aesthetic and narrative formulas. Arkin, acting both as father and son, is out for revenge after his sister has been raped and his village pillaged by bloodthirsty Christians.
Watching this film today not only allows us to dip into the outré-cinema of the Yesilçam era, but also offers us the possibility to think about the reawakened Ottoman-Nostalgia and Muslim machismo in contemporary Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Additionally, the weirdly color-corrected Youtube version to be shown is a testimony to the precarious state of Turkish cinema heritage. As with most of the Yesilçam movies there are no subtitles available–so the non-Turkish speaking audience can expect an old-fashioned cinephile experience, where the images tell their story without the need for words. But fear not: The basic fairytale plot and schematic characters make it easy to understand everything essential. And, if required, we will offer translation and commentary on the go.
Zeynep Tuna is an experimental filmmaker from Eskisehir, Turkey. Nino Klingler writes about cinema. They are currently scholars at the Graduate School of the University of Arts Berlin where they are in the process of realizing the comedic web series on local television production in Turkey: Kanal 82.