Ceylan's triumph shines over 'real' Turkey.
When I met with my dear friend actress Serra Yylmaz in London last week we agreed that, given his immense maturity in the art of storytelling and talent, Ceylan stood out without doubt in a league of grand masters of today.
I jumped with joy at the announcement. It felt inevitably as an ironic juxtaposition of two faces of Turkey today: at one side a scenery of politics -- acrimonious, small-minded, hateful, "anything but local," full of dogfights, patriarchy at its peak and a collective frenzy -- and at the other the power of art, individualism and free thinking, a prevailing sense of swimming against the current.
It was also a given that Ceylan dedicated the award to those who have suffered in the political unrest and Soma mine disasters of his native Turkey. He is an artist who feels intensely, and expresses himself subtly about the people and the country. Yet, during the ceremony, he barely concealed his sorrow and compassion.
Such seems the destiny, I thought then, of the awards handed over to individuals from Turkey in these hard times. When I was awarded the European Press Prize, I for days could not feel real joy, since, as I expressed then, it went to all those colleagues who had lost their jobs in the suppressed media and were silenced. Resistance has many faces, many ways.
But single achievements, serious dedication to any work and bravery matter. People here will always seek and find means to express themselves.
And if we can rank any powerful means to do so in today's Turkey, it is the cinema. Mainly because it is the least censored medium, at least until now out of the radar of the powers, probably because much of it is about fiction. I would imagine that if investigative journalism meets the art of documentaries, then we can face some challenges.
The lack of censorship, as well as new technologies, helped the boom of Turkish cinema -- arguably one of the top countries that cause interest and excitement. The new generations of filmmakers, a decade or so ago liberated from the ideological shackles of seeing cinema as a tool for political manifestations, now have spread over an immense spectrum of themes, searches and artistic languages. They have been acknowledged in the past years, by one big award after another.
Names like Zeki Demirkubuz, Reha Erdem, Semih Kaplanoy-lu, Ecay-an Irmak and many others defend through their work the cinema as a pure art form, as "semi-Turks" like Ferzan Euzpetek and Fatih Akyn do abroad.
In this context, Ceylan's artistic journey is one towards perfection. I had already thought that his masterpiece "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" meant a peak, but he has managed to go further with "Winter's Sleep." He bears the tradition founded by Antonioni and Bergman, and develops it in his own ways.
As the Guardian describes, "Ceylan's tale is a brooding, knotty psychological drama, doffing its cap to the plays of Anton Chekhov and running nearly three-and-a-half hours in length as Aydyn stumbles, by degrees, towards a self-knowledge."
The best description of what his over three-hour-long movie means came from Jane Campion, head of the Cannes jury and a renowned director.
She told of the first screening: "I was thinking, oh my God, I'm going to need to take a toilet break. But I sat down, and the film had such a beautiful rhythm and it took me in. I could have stayed there for another couple hours. It was masterful. The real gift of the film is how honest it is. It's ruthless. If I had the guts to be as honest as [Ceylan], I'd be proud of myself."
We are all proud of him. Not only because of a new masterpiece but also because of his magnetic power to show us and the world that the inner core of hope now dormant in Turkey will someday end the winter, and signal the arrival of the blooming spring.
YAVUZ BAYDAR (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN
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