Erden Kiral, under the spotlight

THESSALONIKI – One of Turkey’s most influential directors of the country?s dictatorship and post-dictatorship era, Erden Kiral was at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival on Sunday to talk about his work, which is the subject of a tribute at this year’s edition of the annual event.

TIFF director Dimitris Eipides made a special reference to the 69-year-old filmmaker?s significant body of work, noting his influence on the new generation of Turkish filmmakers and his contribution to the boom in the country?s film industry.

Born in 1942, Kiral studied ceramics at the Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts. He published the film periodicals Gercek Sinema and Cagdas Sinema, was editor of Guney magazine and has written about film for the Vatan newspaper and 7 Sanatmagazine. During his career, as well as five short films, he has made 11 features and three television series.

No stranger to controversy during his career, Kiral became a marked man for his left-wing politics and frequent shows of solidarity with the Kurdish minority in his country.

?I began making movies in 1978. As you know, in 1980 there was a military dictatorship in Turkey and therefore my films were made in an environment of political and social upheaval. The shoots took place almost in secret and so I chose to lend my films a metaphorical tone, which, I feel, makes them reminiscent of the work of Carlos Saura,? Kiral said, referring to the work of the Spanish director and photographer.

He also spoke at some length about his troubled relationship with Yilmaz Guney, the Turkish Kurdish filmmaker whose films were banned during the military regime and who was twice imprisoned for subversive activities. The regime stripped Guney of his Turkish nationality after he fled to France.

Guney was Kiral’s mentor and friend, though their collaboration ended abruptly in the early 1980s over a disagreement. Guney died in Paris of gastric cancer in 1984.

?After my disagreement with Guney, I began filming, in secret, my film ‘A Season in Hakkari.’ The film had been banned in Turkey and the audience there had to wait five years before it could see it, despite the fact that it was awarded at the Berlin Film Festival,? Kiral explained.

On his style and influences, Kiral talked about the impact his education in French film had on his work, as well as how the time he spent in Germany made him re-evaluate his style. Kiral moved to Berlin in 1983 and became a member of Berlin’s Akademie der Kunst a year later.

?The most difficult and different film I have ever made, ‘The Mirror’ [1984], was shot in Greece on the island of Andros. Meanwhile, when I was living in Germany, I worked with Wim Wenders, who liked ‘The Mirror’ and gave me a lot of support, a fact that again made me turn toward a new style.?

Kiral has also made a number of documentaries, the first of which was in France, on the life of Moroccan immigrants.

?I used the technique of American war photography,? explained Kiral. ?I wanted to capture the moment, just like the camera captures the wounded soldier on the front line. When Elias Kazan saw my film ‘Blue Exile’ he said that I had solid foundations, but noted that I needed to focus on one subject at a time,? he said of his fictionalized account of a period in the life of a Turkish journalist who was condemned to exile for an article he wrote about WWI deserters.

On his own period of exile from Turkey, under persecution from the military regime, Kiral said: ?Exile inevitably leads to a person having to come to terms with himself, while it also gives you time to come to terms with society. When I was exiled in Berlin I looked at Turkey from afar and tried to understand why all this was happening. But I do not believe in nostalgia; the whole process of exile benefited me and I tried not be afflicted by that disease called ‘nostalgia.’?