Dec 152016
 

By 99GetSmart

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

The 8th edition of Istanbul’s Which Human Rights Film Festival (WHRFF) was launched on December 9th, on the eve of the International Human Rights Day. The opening ceremony was a tribute to the city’s iconic Emek Movie Theatre, demolished in 2013 to make place for a shopping mall.

Three years after the unsuccessful attempt to defend the heart of the city’s cinema scene, which also paved the way to the Gezi resistance movement, hundreds of viewers gathered at Şişli Urban Cultural Centre for the premiere of the documentary Audience Emancipated: The Struggle for the Emek Movie Theater.

The premiere coincided with the opening of a cinema multiplex under the name of “Emek Hall” at the Grand Pera shopping mall that was constructed on the original site. 

The Cinema

The original Emek Movie Theatre was as old as Turkish cinema itself. Located in the historical building of Cercle d’Orient (built 1884) the cinema opened its doors to public in 1924. It was originally called Melek Sineması or Angel Cinema as a reference to the Art Nouveau angel sculptures at the entrance of the former structure, and was the oldest cinema hall in Republican Turkey. 

The building was originally constructed for purposes other than film screenings. Among others, it used to serve as a theatre hall and as the gathering place for Istanbul’s cultural life. Its giant hall and the lounge, which could welcome hundreds, was ultimately found suitable for film festivals. 

Located on Istiklal, one of the most crowded avenues in Europe, the hall had been the home of Istanbul Film Festival for decades and the most popular cinema hall in the country for almost a century. It had left a deep mark in the social memory of the city.

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

Writing about a cinema-goer, Yusuf Atılgan, an early republican Turkish novelist, argues of the importance of being able to walk out into the city after watching a film and to be part of the society in order to digest what she or he had just watched.

Yeşilçam (Green Pine) Street, at which Emek’s entrance was located, gave the name to Turkish Cinematosphere. For Turkey, Green Pine is what Hollywood is for the US.

Emek cinema was not just any other movie theatre screening expensive international productions with profit-oriented mentality but a social space, which allowed young directors and independent films to find a screen and flourish.

The Film

At the opening of the WHRFF, the Cultural Center was filled with activists, architects, directors, researchers, students, labourers, former managers of Emek and many other people. They arrived well ahead of the screening to be united around the memory of the lost movie theatre and the ongoing struggles for presence in the city. 

The famous banner of Emek was placed in the hall, reading “Emek is Ours, Istanbul is Ours”. Many old friends met once again under this banner, the excitement was palpable.

“Emek is ours, Istanbul is ours” (Photo: Gürkan Özturan)

“Emek is ours, Istanbul is ours” (Photo: Gürkan Özturan)

Audience Emancipated captures the activism for the right to the city in Istanbul, such as the Emek is Ours Platform and their years-long struggle against demolition or neglect of cultural spaces, low-income residential neighbourhoods and parks. 

The 48-minute-long documentary summarizes the stages of demolition and resistance against it, stating the significance of this building for the cultural life of the city and the lure of profits for the investors, despite the court decisions marking the structure for preservation and other court decisions dictating a halt on demolition/construction works. 

However, experts, architects, the judiciary and even internationally renowned directors, such as Costa Gavras, stated opinions against demolition of the structure. And even though there were given many official decisions by courts to stop demolition, none of these were heard by the government, municipality, investors and construction companies went ahead with their plans. 

Now, a shopping mall enchants the luxurious consumers of Istanbul in the increasingly de-cultured and profiteering atmosphere of Istiklal Avenue. 

In the film, the mayor and construction company experts explain to the media how the Emek Hall will be preserved, not at the street level on ground floor but, thanks to the “modern preservation technique called ‘moving’, it will be dragged to the eight floor of the new shopping mall, exactly as it is.” This statement caused an uproar of laughter during the screening. 

After the screening, there was a period of discussion, quite emotional moments as the two former operators of Emek cinema came up on the stage. They had avoided the construction site in order not to see the demolition three years ago; and they had seen it for the first time, on screen. Their hands were shaking as they held onto the microphone and spoke about the times when they thought they’d be running Emek for their whole lives.

Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat

Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat

Right after them, Master Architect Mucella Yapıcı, the general secretary of the Turkish Union of Architecture and Engineering Chambers, Istanbul Metropolitan Branch, took the stage and emphasized the significance of reclaiming the city and social memory. She drew attention to the destructive populism wave of demolishing urban spaces and living areas for humans and animals, as well as trees in the city. As a final remark she reiterated the importance of not giving in and losing morality in the face of this expanding threat. “We must continue putting things on top of each other, building up culture and future,” she added. 

In the discussion after the screening, there was a consensus to boycott the shopping malls and unsocial profit spaces that destroy and demolish the memory of the city without even asking the people suffering the consequences or living there. 

The trailer of Audience Emancipated:

Oct 022014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

couple

A documentary film called “Until Globe Surface Becomes the Face of Love” tells the story of resistance against state repression during the Gezi Park protests of June 2013 in Turkey. The director, Reyan Tuvi, has worked on scenes recorded at ground zero in real-time protests and reflected on the multicultural atmosphere in Gezi Park during the uprising, telling the story of different characters who have contributed to the struggle for the sake of lifestyles that they dream of and to change their destiny.

Yet, when the film was brought before the primary jury and got approved as one of the 15 finalists, it was taken off the shortlist due to legal concerns. The explanation stated that the film violates Articles 125 and 299 of the Turkish Penal Code.

The quoted articles read as follows:

TPC 125:

1) Anyone who undermines the honour, dignity or respectability of another person or who attacks a person’s honour by attributing to them a concrete act or a fact, or by means of an insult shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three months to two years, or punished with a judicial fine. In order to convict for an insult made in the absence of the victim, the act must have been witnessed by at least three persons.

(2) If the act is committed by means of a spoken, written or visual message addressing the victim, the perpetrator shall be sentenced to the penalties set out above.

(3) If the offence of insult is committed:

a) against a public official in connection with their duty;

b) in response to the expression of religious, political, social, philosophical beliefs, thoughts and opinions, in response to an individual’s changing or attempting to propagate their religious, political, social, philosophical beliefs, thoughts and opinions, or in response to an individual’s compliance with the requirements and prohibitions of their religion;

c) by reference to the holy values of a person’s religion, the penalty shall be not less than one year.

(4) (Amended by Law 5377 of 29 June 2005 /Article 15) Where the offence of insult was committed in public, the penalty shall be increased by one sixth.

(5) (Amended by law 5377 of 29 June 2005 /Article 15) In the case of insults to public officials in connection with their efforts working as a committee, the offence shall be deemed to have been committed against all committee members. In such a case, the provisions related to concatenated offences shall be applied.

TPC 299

(1) Anyone who insults the President of the Republic shall be imprisoned for a term of from one to four years.

(2) (Amended by Law 5377 dated 29 June 2005/Article 35) Where the offence is committed in public, the sentence shall be increased by one sixth.

(3) Initiation of a prosecution for this offence shall be subject to authorization by the Minister of Justice.

Members of the primary jury also read out a press statement telling the public at large that they consider this act of bringing the film under penal code investigation serves the purposes of censorship. When even the jury declares this kind of action as censorship, there is not much to be debated on the side of the state representatives.

The primary jury’s statement is as follows:

“As the jury of 51st Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, Competition for National Documentary, out of all the lists of films, we have selected 15 films for the finals and notified the festival management. We then came to learn that one of the films has been disqualified for the reason that it violates two clauses of the Turkish Penal Code, Articles 125 and 299, with its content.

We, the primary jury, consider this kind of an action – a film being disqualified from the shortlist due to its investigation through the Turkish Penal Code – as censorship. Even though we have shared with the festival management that this is unacceptable and requested that the situation be corrected, these concerns and request have been discarded. We thus declare here that we do not recognize such censorship and neither do we want to be part of it.”

Currently there are still hundreds of thousands of websites, books, films, and songs banned in Turkey. And this film about one of the most honorable periods of Turkish history is yet another brick in the wall of censorship. But still, just as we the “Internetophiles” had protested when the censorship bill was brought to the Parliament floor, the primary jury at this film festival also say they do not recognize the censorship.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/