From Cannes winners to classic films from the 1970s, there is plenty to catch up on if you’re not familiar with Turkey’s cinematic past and present. Check out these films for a comprehensive introduction.
Starring two of Turkey’s most famous stars, Türkan Şoray and Kadir İnanır, Selvi Boylum Al Yazmalım (The Girl with the Red Scarf) is an immortal classic everyone has to see. Asya is a young woman who falls in love with a womanizing city man. After they marry, he disappears, leaving her to fend for herself with her children until a hand reaches out to her and gives her the help she needs.
The Hababam Sınıfı film series from the 1970s is a comedy classic. A class of private school students – played by famous actors such as Kemal Sunal, Tarık Akan and Münir Özkul – wreak comedic and unforgettable havoc on their headmaster and fellow students.
Speaking of Kemal Sunal, undoubtedly Turkey’s most famous comedic actor, this is another must-see. It revolves around two rival Turkish families who are competing for a lucrative piece of land. One of the families comes up with the bright idea of dressing their butler up as an Ottoman war general named Tosun Paşa.
One of Turkish actor Şener Şen’s most important roles, Eşkiya follows the story of a legendary gangster named Baran. Upon being released from prison after a 35-year sentence, he must face a world that has changed dramatically and must find a way to avenge his past and all the people who have wronged him.
Long before Nuri Bilge Ceylan won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Fim Festival for Kış Uykusu (Winter Sleep) in 2014, he had already made a name for himself with Distant and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. His award-winning film revolves around the story of Aydın, an actor-turned-landlord in a remote Turkish village, who must deal with his strained relationship with his family and one of his tenants.
It’s hard to choose a favourite among German Turkish director Fatih Akın’s films. Most famous for his 2004 film, Head-On, Akın’s 2007 The Edge of Heaven is another milestone in his successful career. A man travels back to Turkey from Germany to find the daughter of the woman his father accidentally killed.
Starring actor and comedian Cem Yılmaz (who went on to become quite the big deal in standup), Herşey Çok Güzel Olacak (Everything’s Gonna Be Great) is not only a journey into Turkey in the 1990s but also the story of two very opposite brothers, who bond while running away from a Mafioso.
Directed by French-Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Mustang takes a very honest and often disturbing look at the role of women in rural Turkey. Five orphan girls are seen playing on the beach with a group of boys and must face the punishment of a conservative society.
This film is based on the true story of Kaan and Mete, who hosted a late-night radio show in Istanbul in the mid-1990s called Kaybedenler Kulübü (Losers’ Club). It deals with their often sexually provocative conversations about their love lives, the struggles of daily life and the effects their on-air honesty has on their off-air relationships.
Anyone who has been to Istanbul knows that street cats are an integral part of the city’s spirit. Kedi follows seven such cats, as well as the locals who love and take care of them, for an intimate look at the daily routine of Istanbul and its unique beauty.