Cem Kaya, director of "Remix, Remake, Rip-Off," on copy culture in Turkish cinema, censorship and the quality of television.
Superman and Batman combined to become super-superheroes Photo: UFA FICTION
site: Mr. Kaya, your film is running in the section Country Focus Turkey. There on the program are Kurdish militias in Syria or mass graves in Cyprus. In your case, it’s instead about the directors of trashy remakes of "Star Wars" and "Rambo."
Cem Kaya: My film is just funny, tragicomic. On the one hand, it’s about the Yesilcam film industry, which emerges in Istanbul in the fifties and makes money under hardcore conditions. At its peak, it was churning out 300 films a year in the seventies. And on the other hand, it’s about the directors who had to find their way in this system. Of course, they were also about money, but a few of them were real visionaries, almost subversive. cetin İnanc, for example, with the Turkish Rambo – that is, one of the Turkish Rambos. The one with the biker gang that knows karate and the zombies. That’s cetin İnanc’s vision, and no one can copy it. The same goes for his Turkish "Star Wars.
Among other things, he stole film material from the real "Star Wars" for it.
And from about 15 other films. But what can he do? cetin İnanc knew at the time that technically he couldn’t keep up with Hollywood. Besides, there was no international copyright law in Turkey yet. It was all legal. So he takes the scenes, incorporates the material and otherwise relies on heart. He blows it all up a bit. That’s why his lead actor, Cuneyt Arkın, hits a hundred times where Luke Skywalker only hits once – because it makes the emotions big.
It does seem a bit silly, though, doesn’t it?
It automatically becomes a parody. Not because the Turkish "Star Wars" is silly, but because "Star Wars" has always been a bit silly. And above all, it has already been stolen itself: from Westerns, World War II films with John Wayne, the plot by Akira Kurosawa. When this comes from Turkey, it all just suddenly seems exotic.
The director, cinematographer and producer, born in Schweinfurt in 1976, grew up with the films of the Yesilcam studios from the Turkish video stores in Germany.
The downfall of this film industry then came with censorship and a military coup.
There has been a censorship authority in Turkey since the 1930s. It was only abolished in the 2000s and was sometimes looser, sometimes harder over the years. It will be bad in 1971. At that time, the military issues an ultimatum: "Resign or we’ll coup!" In this time of unrest – there are the student protests, a lot of right-wing violence, pogroms – the Yesilcam studios first have their heyday, but then lose confidence in the industry. They wait it out. You can see that in the declining film numbers. After the coup in 1980, market liberalization begins. Suddenly, original American films were being shown everywhere in Turkey. By then, the studios were already in the midst of a crisis. In 1990, they finally switched to television.
Is that going better?
Ninety percent is dreck, but even in Venezuela they celebrate the birthdays of Turkish soap stars. That’s already a big deal.
As part of the taz’s "Future Workshop," every Friday, instead of the Neuland page, a separate page is published for Leipzig, the taz.leipzigplanned, produced and written by young local journalists.
And what about censorship today? The last coup attempt was barely four months ago.
There is no censorship authority anymore, but any mayor, any senator of culture, anyone else can try to ban your work. You notice it at festivals, you notice it in the funding, and you see it in the cinemas. A large part of it belongs to the Mars Entertainment Group, and they don’t want to mess with the government. That’s why films that are too critical don’t even make it into the program.
Your film ends with footage of the Emek art house cinema in Istanbul. That stood until 2013 in the same area where Yesilcam Studios got its start.
And then it was destroyed. Instead, a shopping center was put there – with a copy of the Emek cinema as a built-in auditorium. There it is again, the subject of the copy. The resistance against this went directly into the protests on Taksim Square. At the DOK there is also a film about it.
"Audience Emancipated," in which material from your film was also used.
Right. They approached us at the time. That’s just solidarity among documentary filmmakers: You take from me, I take from you. A bit like Yesilcam.