Eylem Atakav. Bristol: Intellect, 2013. 216 pages. ISBN: 978-1841506203.
This collection, edited by Eylem Atakav, is a good introduction for those who have had little or no contact with Turkish film. The directory of films made in Turkey is divided into several thematic sections, with reviews by several scholars of Turkish film and further information about the film industry and history in Turkey. Its division into genres, together with its use of different specialists, will help the new initiate to find various films that suit her or his taste.. Though some previous knowledge about Turkey would be useful before reading the directory, the book was written for those who are interested in encountering new films and learning about the history and culture of the country. The way the different sections are presented provides enough information to benefit the reader even before watching the films.
Every section starts with a short text introducing the reader to basic aspects of the topic that will be treated, such as notable directors and related titles. For example, the chapter called “Women’s Films” is introduced by a brief text by the editor of the volume, Eylem Atakav, who highlights some films, such as Mutluluk (Abdullah Oguz, 2007) and Sakli Yüzler (Handan Ipekçi, 2007), that treat women’s issues. The book begins with a series of chapters devoted to specific aspects of Turkish film history and the film industry. These make a very enjoyable read that introduces the reader to the current panorama of Turkish cinema: festivals, significant directors, and popular stars are presented in an easy but full way that will profit a novice audience, but will probably feel superficial for experts in the field. For instance, one of the preliminary chapters is devoted to the Ankara International Film Festival, a very important event for Turkish film industry, while another describes the career of the director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, probably the nation’s most popular and internationally recognized. auteur.
The next part of the directory is devoted to film reviews. The editor divides the material into genres and topics, such as dramas, blockbusters, or transnational cinema. In every chapter, the authors select representative films from the given genre or topic. For example, the section devoted to science fiction and fantasy, written by Iain Robert Smith, includes titles from diverse periods and styles, such as the successful comedy G.O.R.A. (Ömer Faruk Sorak, 2004) or the classic horror film Şeytan (Metin Erksan, 1974), based on William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973). In this way, readers can choose topics and films that fit their interests. A fact sheet, a short synopsis, and a review is provided for each film, which will be useful both for people who want to discover new movies and for those who seek to read about the works they prefer. In this part of the book, the audience will also learn about the history and evolution of Turkish cinema through its films. For example, the first chapter of the reviews section is devoted to early Turkish cinema, and one of the sections, entitled “Industry Spotlight,” deals with the period known as Yeşilçam, the popular Turkish film industry between the 1950s and the 1990s. The reader need not read every review, but only those that are of interest. Still, one should be cautioned about reading the review before watching the movie since some of them include important plot points.
The directory is not written in an academic style. Its authors are scholars, but the book offers an engaging approach to a national film industry suitable for every kind of audience. In sum, I did not find the book to be merely a bland collection of titles and plots but rather an enriching and complete guide for beginners. While not a deep analysis of Turkish film history, it is a fresh, unpretentious, and measured anthology, which looks to convey to the reader the fascination for Turkish film that the authors feel.