Cinema of Turkey

Cinema of Turkey
Dry Summer won the Golden Bear at the 14th Berlin International Film Festival

Turkish cinema is an important part of Turkish culture, and has flourished over the years, delivering entertainment to audiences in Turkey, expatriates across Europe, and in rare cases, the USA.

Yeşilçam ("Green Pine") refers to the Turkish film industry in the same way that Hollywood refers to American film.




In terms of film production, Turkey shared the same fate with many of the national cinemas of the 20th century. Film production wasn't continuous until around the 1950s and the film market in general was run by a few major import companies that struggled for domination in the most population-dense and profitable cities such as Istanbul and Izmir. Film theatres rarely ever screened any locally produced films and the majority of the programs consisted of films of the stronger western film industries, especially those of the USA, France, Italy and Germany. Attempts in film production came only from these big importers, which could rely on their strong distribution-system and their theatre-chains that would guarantee them a return-of-investment. Between the years 1896–1945, the number of locally produced films did not even reach 50 films in total, equalling to an average annual film production under one film per year. Compared to the thousands of films that have been imported and screened during the same period, it is hard to speak about a presence of film production in Turkey before the 1950s.

This would rapidly change after World War II. A total of 49 films produced in 1952 meant that within a year, more films had been produced than the Turkish industry could produce during all the previous years. During the 60s, Turkey became the fifth biggest film producer world wide and annual film production reached the 300 film benchmark just at the beginning of the 70s. Compared with the histories of other national cinemas, the achievements of the Turkish film industry after 1950 are still remarkable.

However, the impact of TV and Video as the new popular media and political turmoil in the 70s (often hand in hand with deep economic crises) caused a sharp drop in ticket sales, resulting into a long crisis starting at around 1980 and continuing until the mid-90s. The number of annual ticket sales decreased from a 90 million tickets in 1966 [1] to 56 million tickets in 1984 and only 11 million in 1990.[2] Accordingly the number of film theatres fell from an approximately 2000 theatres in 1966 [3] to 854 in 1984 and 290 in 1990.[4] During the 1990s the average number of films produced per year remained between 10-15 films, usually half of them not even making it into the theatres.

Since 1995 the situation has improved. After the year 2000, annual ticket sales reached the 20 millions and since 1995, the number of theatres continuously increased to an approximately 500 theatres country-wide. Now, Turkish films attract millions of spectators and top the blockbuster-lists, often surpassing foreign films in terms of ticket sales. However, it is difficult to speak about the existence of an industry, since most films are rather individual projects of directors who otherwise earn their living in Television, Advertising or Theatre. The distribution of these films are mainly handled by foreign companies such as Warner Bros and United International Pictures.


Most of the Turkish films produced before 1950 were projects initiated by import companies owned by local families, most notably İpek Film, a daughter company of the İpek Merchandise, an import company that already existed in the 19th century as can be seen in their adverts published in Ottoman literary journals such as Servet-i-Fünun. Another important company in the early era of Turkish cinema was Kemal Film, a company whose continuous presence as a leading import company has been often overseen for a few local films it produced during the 1920s. (It is interesting to note that the founders of Kemal Film bought their first film camera on loan from the Ipek Merchandise). Both companies would be the strongest film distributors until the 1950s and the only companies that were financially sound enough to produce films themselves, with low risks for financial failure as they already were in possession of a distribution-system and theatre chains that guaranteed a return-of-investment.

However, the notable developments of these companies must be seen as necessary adaptations to the technological progress of the western film industries whose films they were importing. One example here being the establishment of the Marmara Dubbing Studio in the early 1930s, when the silent era came to an end in the West and sound-films became the standard, prompting the import-dependent companies to adjust themselves to the new technological requirements.

The big distributors in Istanbul, led by İpek Film and Kemal Film gradually expanded their distribution-system throughout the rest of the country during the 1930s, leading to the so-called "regional system" (Bölge İşletmeleri) which consisted of seven distribution areas with their headquarters being established in the most significant cities in those regions: Istanbul (Marmara Region), İzmir (Aegaean Region), Ankara (Middle Anatolian Region), Samsun (Black Sea Region), Adana (Mediterranean Region), Erzurum (East Anatolian Region) and Diyarbakir (South East Anatolian Region).[5] The Regional System became much more important after the 1950s, when local film production dramatically increased and local films surpassed import-films in both ticket-sales and revenues. This system became the financial fundament of Yeşilçam (often referred to as "Turkish Hollywood), which was the heart of Turkish film production between the years 1955–1975. After 1965, a so-called "Combined-System" (Kombine Sistem)led by a trust of some regional leaders is said to have taken control on almost everything regarding production.[6] A leading figure of the trust was producer Türker İnanoğlu who is still active in the media business today, now running Ulusal Film, Turkey's largest TV production company.

The first film showing in Turkey was held in the Yıldız Palace, Istanbul in 1896. Public shows by Sigmund Weinberg in the Beyoğlu and Sehzadebasi districts followed in 1897. Weinberg was already a prominent figure at that time, especially known as the a representative of foreign companies such as Pathé for whom he sold gramophones before he got into the film business. In some sources he is also mentioned as a photographer, again as a result of being one of the representatives of foreign companies such as Kodak-Goldmann.

The first Turkish movie, a documentary produced by Fuat Uzkinay in 1914, depicted the destruction of the Russian monument in Ayastefanos by the public. The first thematic Turkish films were "The Marriage of Himmet Aga" (1916–1918), started by Weinberg and completed by Uzkinay, "The Paw" (1917) and "The Spy" (1917), both by Sedat Simavi. The army-affiliated Central Cinema Directorate, a semi-military national defense society, and the Disabled Veterans Society were the producing organizations of that period.

In 1922 a major documentary film, "Independence, the İzmir Victory," was made about the first war of Independence. The same year, the first private movie studio, Kemal Film, commenced operations. From 1923 to 1939, Muhsin Ertugrul was the only film director in the country. He directed 29 films during this period, generally incorporating adaptions of plays, operettas, fiction and foreign films. The influence of the theater dating back to Uzkinay, Simavi, Ahmet Fehim and Karagozoglu is very strong in Muhsin Ertugrul's work.

The years between 1939 and 1950 were a period of transition for Turkish cinema, during which it was greatly influenced by the theater as well as by World War II. While there were only two film companies in 1939, the number increased to four between 1946 and 1950. After 1949, Turkish cinema was able to develop as a separate art, with a more professional caliber of talents.

The Yeşilçam era

Yesilçam ("Green pine") is a metonym for the Turkish film industry, similar to Hollywood in the United States, and Pinewood in the United Kingdom. Yeşilçam is named after Yeşilçam Street in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul where many actors, directors, crew members and studios were based.

Yeşilçam experienced its heyday during the 1950s-1970s, when it produced 250-350 films annually. After the 1970s, Yeşilçam suffered due to the spread of television in Turkey. However, Yeşilçam has seen a revival since 2002, having produced critically acclaimed movies such as Uzak (Grand Prix (Cannes Film Festival), 2003), Babam ve Oğlum and Propaganda.

Turkish actors most commonly associated with Yeşilçam include:

Between 1950 and 1966, more than fifty movie directors practiced film arts in Turkey. Ömer Lütfi Akad strongly influenced the period, but Osman Fahir Seden, Atıf Yılmaz, and Memduh Ün made the most films. The film Susuz Yaz (Dry Summer), made by Metin Erksan, won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1964.

The number of cinemagoers and the number of films made record a constant increase, especially after 1958. In the 1960s, cinema courses were included in the programs of the theater departments in the Language, History and Geography faculties of Ankara University and Istanbul University, and in the Press and Publications High School of Ankara University. A cinema branch was also established in the Art History Department of the State Fine Arts Academy.

The Union of Turkish Film Producers, and the State Film Archives also were established in the 1960s. The State Film Archives became the Turkish Film Archives in 1969. During the same period, the Cinema-TV Institute was founded and annexed to the State Academy of Fine Arts. The Turkish State Archives also became part of this organization. In 1962, the Cinema-TV Institute became a department of Mimar Sinan University. Among the well-known directors of the 1960–1970 period are Metin Erksan, Atıf Yılmaz, Memduh Ün, Halit Refiğ, Duygu Sağıroğlu, Remzi Aydın Jöntürk and Nevzat Pesen. In 1970, the numbers of cinemas and cinemagoers rose spectacularly. In 2,424 cinemas, films were viewed by a record number of 247 million viewers.

In 1970, approximately 220 films were made and this figure reached 300 in 1972. Turkish cinema gave birth to its legendary stars at this period, notable examples being Kemal Sunal, Kadir İnanır, Türkan Şoray and Şener Şen. After this period however, the cinema began to lose its audiences, due to nationwide TV broadcasts. After 1970, a new and young generation of directors emerged, but they had to cope with an increased demand for video films after 1980.

Decline of Yeşilçam and the post-Yeşilçam era

Increased production costs and difficulties faced in the import of raw materials brought about a decrease in the number of films made in the 1970s, but the quality of films improved. However, the fall of cinema's popularity continued. In the early nineties, there were barely two or three movies released for a year. During this period, most of the seventies' stars had either moved to TV, or were trying to rebuild the Yeşilçam's former glory. Some of the notable examples of this era are Eşkıya (English: The Bandit) and Züğürt Ağa (English: The Agha), both starring Şener Şen. Both movies were critically and commercially acclaimed.

However, the rise of Yesilçam didn't take place until the release of Vizontele. The film was directed, written, and starred by Yılmaz Erdoğan, who was praised by his long-running sit-com Bir Demet Tiyatro, and his dedication to theatre. The movie starred the cast of his usual plays, most notably Demet Akbağ, Altan Erkekli, and Cem Yılmaz. This movie's huge commercial success (watched by 2.5 million viewers, which earned the movie the most viewed film for its day) brought attention to the industry. A few years later, Cem Yılmaz released his own film, G.O.R.A., which he both wrote and starred in. This, and Vizontele's sequel Vizontele Tuuba broke Vizontele's records, by achieving 3.5, and 3 million viewers respectively.

Since then larger-budgeted films produced, notable examples being Kurtlar Vadisi: Irak (English: Valley of the Wolves: Iraq), continuing the story of the controversial series Kurtlar Vadisi, (reached 4 million viewers and still holds the record), Babam ve Oğlum (English: My Father and My Son), Cem Yılmaz's second movie Hokkabaz (English: The Magician) .

There has been a rise in more experimental films in the 2000s. Notably the 2005 feature Türev was filmed without a prewritten script and even featured candid shots of the actors. Anlat Istanbul (Istanbul Tales), an ensemble piece divided into five "mini films" got a strong reception.

The production numbers also soared in the second half of the 2000s, with 40 films in 2007, and top 4 box office hits in 2007 claimed by Turkish films, as the film industry became profitable again with improving technical quality corresponding with commercial films' production costs increasing.[7]

Legal issues

Although the need for a Cinema Law has been very often raised throughout the history of the Turkish Republic, until 1986 no specific law or regulation has been developed. While films have been usually treated as goods and were in that regard subject to laws regarding taxation, content-wise they were controlled by commissions that have been often criticized for being mechanism of censorship.

In the 1930s some members of the parliament raised the issue whether films would have a bad impact on children. This was a popular theme at that time, not just in Turkey, but also in the USA for example. (See: Payne Foundation Studies) Later on in the 1960s, a debate around the so-called Baykam-Law became quite famous for the tension it created amongst the parliamentarians and the stakeholders in the industry. In 1977 and 1978 some further discussions for a cinema law have been held, but without any result.

In 1986, finally, a cinema law, though highly criticised by members of the industry and the cinema intelligentsia of that time, has been passed by the parliament and is since then the fundamental legislative document regarding cinema issues in Turkey.

Laws and regulations

On January 23, 1986, a new cinema law aimed to ensure support for those working in cinema and music. A reorganization of the film industry began in 1987 to address problems and assure its development. The Ministry of Culture established the "Professional Union of Owners of Turkish Works of Cinema" the same year.

The "Copyrights and General Directorate of Cinema" was founded in 1989 as well as a "Support Fund for the Cinema and Musical Arts". This fund is used to provide financial support to the film sector.

Rating systems and censorship

One of the most interesting studies on the issue of film censorship in Turkey is Alim Şerif Onaran's Sinematografik Hürriyet (Cinematic Freedom), published in 1968 by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but written in 1963 and being the first study in Turkey which received a PhD for a topic related to film. This study is still the most important -if not only- study on the film evaluation methods applied in Turkey before the 1950s. Onaran himself being active as a member of the Film Rating Commission in his younger years, was a true expert on the topic and his research includes also examples of the late Ottoman Period. Ironically, Onaran became one of the most important intellectuals on film in Turkey, owing his wealth of knowledge on early world film history to the years he spent watching the films he was enrolled to evaluate as a committee member.

A very interesting example on the level of absurdity that censorship could reach is mentioned in Çetin Yetkin's book Siyasal Iktidar Sanata Karşı (Political Regime vs Art), published in 1970. It tells the story of a film which was classified as "inappropriate for export" because the Evaluation Committee decided that the film contains "communist propaganda". The film-owner, who applied to the committee for being granted an export-certificate was surprised to see the decision because he mentioned on his application form that his intention was to sell a copy of the film to a distributor in the Soviet Union, the worlds leading communist country at that time.[8]

Important figures


Actors and actresses


Notable films


Modern era films

Cult films

Commercial successes

List of Turkish films

Major events


  • Antalya Film Festival - The most prestigious and popular festival in Turkey. Each year participiants are rewarded with the Golden Orange for outstanding performances in categories such as best film, best director, and best actor/actress.
  • Ankara International Film Festival - First held in 1988. It is considered the second most prestigious film festival in Turkey
  • Istanbul International Film Festival - First held in 1982, this annual film festival is one of the most important intellectual events in Turkey, often causing many cineastes living outside of Istanbul to go there for vacation to see the most precious examples of world film history presented there.
  • Adana Film Festival - Another important film festival held annually in the city of Adana. Its top award is the Golden Boll received in the past by such prominent figures as Yılmaz Güney, who himself grew up in Adana.
  • Ankara Flying Broom Women's Film Festival - (Turkish: Uçan Süpürge) (Flying Broom) is Turkey's only festival devoted to Feminism and Gender-Issues. The festival is held on an annual basis in Ankara. The festival aims to support young women in making their debut-films and organizes workshops on scriptwriting and film-making.

Cinema-related organizations

Film schools

Unions, foundations, professional organisations

  • SINE-SEN—Turkey Cinema Worker's Union
  • SESAM—Professional Union of Film Producers, Importers, Cinema-owners
  • FIYAB—Association of Film Producers
  • SODER—Cinema Actors' Association
  • FILM YON—Film Directors' Union
  • Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, Film Makers' Professional Committee of Film Producers, Importers, Cinema Owners and Video Distributors.
  • Turkish Film Council—Los Angeles based organization dedicated to bridging the Turkish film industry to Hollywood.

See also


  1. ^ Özön, Nijat (1966) Türk Sineması Kronolojisi 1896-1966. Istanbul: Bilgi Yayınları.
  2. ^ T.C. Devlet Istatistik Enstitüsü Eğlence İstatistikleri.
  3. ^ Özön, Nijat (1966) Türk Sineması Kronolojisi 1896-1966. Istanbul: Bilgi Yayınları.
  4. ^ T.C. Devlet İstatistik Enstitüsü Eğlence İstatistikleri.
  5. ^ Abisel, Nilgün (1987) "Yerli Yapımcılık Üzerine Notlar", Türk Sineması Üzerine Yazılar, Ankara: İmge Yayınları.
  6. ^ Abisel, Nilgün (1987) "Yerli Yapımcılık Üzerine Notlar", Türk Sineması Üzerine Yazılar, Ankara: İmge Yayınları.
  7. ^ Basutçu, Mehmet (May 2008), "Turkey. Consolidation", Cahiers du cinéma (Special issue 2008: World Cinema Atlas): 97, ISSN 0008-011x 
  8. ^ Yetkin, Çetin (1970) Siyasal İktidar Sanata Karşı, Ankara: Bilgi Yayınları.

Further reading

  • Savaş Arslan: Cinema in Turkey: A New Critical History, Oxford University Press, 2011, ISBN13 9780195370065
  • Gönül Dönmez-Colin: Turkish Cinema: Identity, Distance and Belonging, Reaktion Books, 2008, ISBN 1-86189-370-1
  • Ekkehard Ellinger ; Kerem Kayi: Turkish cinema 1970 - 2007 : a bibliography and analysis, Frankfurt am Main [etc.]: Peter Lang, 2008, ISBN 978-3-631-56654-1

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать курсовую

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cinema of Germany — Lists of German films 1895–1918 German Empire 1919–1933 Weimar Germany 1933–1945 Nazi Germany 1945–1990 East Germany German films since 1945 …   Wikipedia

  • Cinema of the Soviet Union — Russian Empire 1908–1917 List of Soviet films 1917–1929 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930s 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 …   Wikipedia

  • Cinema of the United Kingdom — List of British films 1888 1919 1920s 1930s 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 …   Wikipedia

  • Cinema of Estonia — List of Estonian films 1908 1918 1918 1940 1940 1953 1953 1991 Since 1991 …   Wikipedia

  • Cinema of Hungary — List of Hungarian films 1901 1947 1948 1989 1990 present Actors • Directors • Producers European cinema …   Wikipedia

  • Cinema of Slovakia — List of Slovak films Before 1920 1920s 1930s 1940s …   Wikipedia

  • Cinema of West Asia — West Asian cinema Cinema of Armenia Cinema of Azerbaijan Cinema of Bahrain Cinema of Cyprus Cinema of Georgia Cinema of Iran Iranian New Wave …   Wikipedia

  • Cinema of Cyprus — European cinema  • Cinema of Albania  • Cinema of Armenia  • Cinema of Austria  • Cinema of Azerbaijan  • Cinema of Belgium  • Cinema of Bosnia Herzegovina  • Cinema of Bulgaria …   Wikipedia

  • Cinema of Asia — Asian cinema East Asian cinema Cinema of China Cinema of Hong Kong Cinema of Japan Cinema of Korea …   Wikipedia

  • Cinema of Bulgaria — European cinema  • Cinema of Albania  • Cinema of Armenia  • Cinema of Austria  • Cinema of Azerbaijan  • Cinema of Belgium  • Cinema of Bosnia Herzegovina  • Cinema of Bulgar …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”