Screening for the 6th Anniversary of the
On Time, City and Culture
Short Turkish Documentaries...
A scene from Nurdan Arca's
documentary: Time Capsules
by Nivedita BANGOLORE CHANDRAPPA
The Light Millennium's 6th Anniversary commenced with a screening
of 5 short Turkish documentaries at Columbia
University. The series was named aptly, "TIME,
CULTURE and CITIES".
Though I do not know Turkish, I
sat through the subtitled documentaries,
and the evening proved to be well worth
The event featured "The Old Town's Newsman" as
the first of the series.
In this film, the filmmaker Mustafa
UNLU tries to capture the spirit of
Istanbul's diminishing "RUM",
or Greek minority community.
This community has been part of
the history of tension between Greece
and Turkey; it bears the scars of the
population exchange that took place. I
could very well relate to the partition
between India and Pakistan and the scars
that were left behind due to such huge
migration. I guess time and tales do not
differ when it comes to human aspects
of any major tragedy that has occurred
understand this documentary, one
needs to understand the history
of the region.
Greek kingdoms flourished
throughout Anatolia during Ancient
Greek and Roman periods. Greek communities survived in Anatolia
under the Ottoman rule, as a multi-ethnic,
multi-cultural societal model
-- A scene from Mustafa Unlu's
the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire
following the First World War, the Republic
of Turkey was established in 1923.
During this process, the Treaty
of Lausanne implemented a population exchange
between Greece and Turkey.
Around 1.500.000 Greeks were forced
to migrate from Anatolia to Greece, and
around 500.000 Turks came from Greece
Greeks of Istanbul (and the Turks of Western
Thrace) were exempted from this exchange.
After this exchange, only 200,000
Greeks remained in Turkey.
the following decades, an imposition of
a hugely discriminatory Wealth Tax and
the Istanbul riots, both of which targeted
minority communities, resulted in accelerating
the process of emigration of the Greek
community. By 1955, the officially recognized Greek
population of Turkey had shrunk to only
1% of its former size, reduced to a small
community of a few thousand people, living
mainly in Istanbul.
The story of this haunting city comes across as an honest attempt
towards understanding something that may
not be essentially your own.
The documentary begins with a description
of the "Rum" population and
how the diminishing "Rum" community
tries to hold on to its values, its culture
and other aspects of human emotions by
maintaining its own meeting places, schools
Many Greeks have left their homes
in search of higher education and better
jobs and most haven't come back to where
their parents and grandparents live. Time
has stood still for the older generation
Etem Erol, Middle Eastern Studies
@Columbia, hosted a panel on the
special screening. Mustaf Unlu
responses a question in relation
to his documentary, "The Old
Town's Newsman", which was
shown 17 minutes of the 60 minutes
The Newspaper "Apoyevmatini", distributed by an
old man in his 70's, seems to have run
its course over the century. The story
of the newspaper itself mirrors the story
of the aging Greek population on the edge
of extinction in Istanbul. Though the
filmmaker doesn't make this an issue,
he is successful in portraying the essence
of pain of a community that is holding
on to its history despite failing efforts. The restaurant scene sums up the film, lending a voice to what
the old town has lost.
The movie explores the theme deftly
and the message comes across effectively
working towards building up an emotion
of desperation and decay.
Nurdan ARCA worked in organizing the first-ever short film festival of Turkey
in 1968 and has worked as a documentary
filmmaker since then as a producer and director. Her documentary "Time Capsules" depicts
the adventure of underwater archaeology
along the Turkish Coasts since the 1960's.
The film follows the excavation of a Byzantine
shipwreck in the Southern Aegean over a
period of four summers. The excavationsheds
light on the evolution of civilization in
the 9th century.
The underwater photography is marvelous.
Remains of the 1,500 amphoras containing
wine and olive oil still intact are taken
out from the depths of the sea to study.
The research will help understand the history
of trade among the civilizations of
the region. As the oldest sea
route, if even just one ship sank each year, there must
be close to 10,000 shipwrecks in this area.
documentarians are at the panel
follow by the special screening.
From left to right: Nurdan
Arca, Sehbal Senyurt, Murad Ozdemir
and Ersan Ocak.
The excavated artifacts are brought to the Bodrum
Museum of Underwater Archaeology. The documentary
is very educational and interesting in terms
of history and trade.
The filmmaker has taken great interest
in telling us a story of a shipwreck and
connecting it to the city and place from
which these remains came from. A time capsule
from beneath the sea tells the tale of an
era bygone, and a culture no more.
"Children Of Homdu River" by Sehbal Senyurt
is a story of a civilization that is
largely isolated from the modern world,
unaffected by its weird needs. The population
of Homdu River is about 20,000, in Northwestern
Mongolia. The people of Homdu have their
own medicine man that cures their fears
and disease. They take pride in preserving
and nurturing nature and live in perfect
harmony with the environment around them.
One can see many similarities between Tuvan culture and that of
Beothuk Indian tribe. The Documentary
aesthetically narrates the small world
in which these children of Homdu River
exist - alienated from the big cities
around them, though, some have succumbed
to the lure of modern life. The documentary is both interesting and
intriguing, and even poignant at times.
It tells the tale of greed, hunger, simplicity,
honesty and virtue of changing times and
Sehbal is a documentary film director and camerawoman most known
for her documentary called "The Adyghe"
which has been watched by over 5 million
Next, we encountered "Tinkos Fish Tinkos", an
irksome tale of a fisherman, a tale that
is told with truth and honesty by Murad
Murad meets a fisherman named Harun
and decides to document thirty minutes
with him in the sea. Incidentally, the
fisherman gives us great insights into
his life and keeps us in good humor.
His innocence untouched by the
cleverness of town folks is endearing
and at times hilarious. Murad uses his
time on screen to bring out the brilliant
filmmaker within him. He captures the
sensibility of a fisherman with satire
and skill of a cartoonist. His style often
reminds one of Woody Allen. I am sure
Murad will go on to produce more of these
simple stories for his audience, which
present great moments of genuine wit.
Murad OZDEMIR has produced and directed several video films; currently,
he is a research assistant in Galatasaray
University, Istanbul, Turkey.
All the documentaries, which were screened on the day of 6th anniversary
of Light Millennium were connected to
the theme of "Time, Culture, and
Cities". The stories centered
around time and changes which altered
Though one feels sad for the loss
one has to accept that societies go through
rises and falls, and everything is perishable
on this earth.
to the special screenig, Turkish
documentarians and the organizer
of the event are together at the
Columbia University, International
Affairs Building Lobby. From left
to right> Nivedita Bangolore
Chandrappa, Murad Ozdemir, Bircan
Unver, Nurdan Arda, Mustaf Unlu,
Sehbal Senyurt and Peri Johnson.
Biography of the documentarians>
Special Thanks to:
For Media Release
of the event>