Cinema under the stars on the Princes’ Islands

Müzisyen, senarist, film müzikleri bestecisi ve söz yazarı, kısa film ve belgesel yönetmeni, felsefe bölümü doktora öğrencisi, gazeteci, gurme, yemek ve kültürü yazarı ve aynı zamanda Today’s Zaman yazarı, Berlin ve İstanbul’da yaşayan sevgili Fulya Özlem’in Büyükada’da açmış olduğumuz Açık Hava Sineması’nı ziyareti ve bu ziyaretten edinmiş olduğu gözlemleri, izlenimleri ve duyguları aşağıda okuyacağınız muhteşem yazıda yer bulmuş. Bu yazı bizleri çok duygulandırdı ve buradan kendi köşemden bu yazıyı sizlerle paylaşmak istedim.

Gülhan Düzgün Varank

Cinema under the stars on the Princes’ Islands

My generation is one of the last lucky ones to have sat on uncomfortable wooden chairs of a garden cinema in a seaside town, religiously consuming sunflower seeds throughout a whole screening, listening to the whining of babies and comments of grannies all through a film, harassing their mommies to get them an Alaska or Frigo ice cream from the box hanging from the salesman’s neck and crying a river over the separation of the lovers in the romance on the screen.

“Shawls on shoulders, babies sleeping on laps” — that was our ultimate memory of garden cinemas, especially in the ’70s; the whole neighborhood’s only source of entertainment on summer evenings, when people would fall in love seeing each other at weekly screenings and today’s famous cinematographers would sell Frigo ice cream during their summer vacations in their teens

If you think that those days are long gone, sweeping away your favorite memory of how to spend a summer evening, surprise! They’re back! A few good people who dreamt about the garden cinemas of those good old days have put all their efforts together to revive this urban phenomenon once again, and now we have garden cinemas screening films weekly on the Princes’ Islands (Adalar).

I went there on a windy night last week. We went through the cobbled streets where only horses ride — cars are forbidden on the Princes’ Islands; there is no traffic, just horse carriages and bikes — past the most beautiful Ottoman and Levantine architecture of the last century, and right there among the cedar trees, we were welcomed to the garden cinema. Zeki Okten’s amazingly beautiful film “Düttürü Dünya” was being screened; it was a free film day for the public, and films with social concerns were chosen intentionally so that people could follow the issues concerning our recent political and social history. “Düttürü Dünya” is such a high-quality film that I thought if this film were without English subtitles and if I did not know anything about Turkish culture, the characters — especially that of Kemal Sunal — were so well drawn that I would not have any difficulty understanding and sympathizing with the story of this clarinetist. Highly recommended: the garden cinema and its Frigo ice creams and the crew’s good selection of films on public film days. And when you hear that this place was a former tennis court that had been a wasteland for the last 10 years or so, you think once again about what an amazing job they have done.

So let us get to know who these people are who gave us our memories back and how it all happens out there. Firstly, the Princes’ Islands Municipality in İstanbul started to do two free film screenings weekly since June 22.  It’s called “Municipality Public Cinema,” and it is a regular film activity carried out all over the Prince’s Islands.

The Princes’ Islands Municipality, which is lead by Dr. Mustafa Farsakoğlu, has been pretty well known lately for its progressive activities. The most recent “revolution” has been turning an area that has long been abandoned and been a field of garbage and mud into a beautiful summer garden cinema that is now at the public’s service. The Municipality Public Cinema on Büyükada (Big Island) has almost 600 seats, and the season’s newly released films are screened there nightly while there are two free weekly screenings of films that deal with more social issues.

The Municipality Public Cinema is more than simply an open-air cinema starting out on the islands just to revive the nostalgia of “garden cinemas,” it is also an example of forming a cultural model that is an act of regaining lost values on the verge of extinction in today’s world.

The basic aim in these kinds of projects promoted by the municipality is to let everyone enjoy cultural activities, which are a rather neglected aspect of social welfare. After all, cultural activities are the binding that holds people together when they see a reflection of their lives in art. Hence, it matters that this art reaches everyone equally, available to all irrespective of their economic means.

The other five days of screening, which concentrate on blockbuster movies and new releases, are also offered at low prices, and the free film screenings are already a favorite two-night-a-week activity, well appreciated by the residents of Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kınalıada.

The project is not exclusive to film screenings either; it also aims to unite cinematographers, actors and film critics with the public. The municipality wants to extend these activities during the winter months, as well, in indoor halls, since the islands are inhabited throughout the year.

When they wanted to set up an open-air cinema project on the islands, Dr. Farsakoğlu consulted Ti Film Screening and its manager Tayfun Sümer. Ti Film is a company that supplies and installs cinema equipment nationwide, to open-air and lounge cinemas, and organizes things in the desired space; they have the best-known film professionals specializing in this area their team. Hence, luckily, when Farsakoğlu wanted to realize this project, Ti Film and Sümer knew how to make his dream come true. One of the most important architects of fulfilling this dream is Gülhan Düzgün Varank, who is the project adviser of the Princes’ Islands open-air cinemas. As a cinematography professional who is almost too shy to talk about her one-year hands-on training in UCLA, her book on Turkish cinema and her countless hours of both organizing and co-producing “projects that involve cinema,” she has been the ideas-woman and on-board adviser of this project. Varank is one of the most passionate cinephiles that I know of in İstanbul, be it an art film, Turkish film from the ’70s or an old Asian documentary that people have hardly any idea about, she has it in her collection or at least knows it. Hence, it was the perfect collaboration between the ones who had a dream, like Farsakoğlu, and the ones whose knowledge and skills could make it come true, like Ti Film and Varank.

Well, now all that is left is for us not to miss out on this great activity happening on the islands nightly, enjoying the beautiful breeze reaching the islands in a cinematic cause. After all, what can be a better excuse to avoid the noise, heat and traffic of the mainland than going to the garden cinema on the islands?

15 July 2009, Wednesday
Today’s Zaman


About Fulya Ozlem:

I write weekly at Zaman’s Cumartesi supplement as “Fulya Ozlem”. I write “Urban Legends” every Friday for the expat zone and weekly album reviews for the arts&culture page for Today’s Zaman.

Fulya is a singer-songwriter from Turkey who blends elements of folk and jazz in her music. Her first solo debut album “Buz Kralicesi” has been released by Irem Records in May, 2007. In Buz Kralicesi, 11 of the songs are her own compositions and lyrics while she’s composed two pieces of 17th century Ottoman Poets Nedim and Baki among them. Aykut Gurel is the producer of her album and Cem Tuncer, made all the arrangements. Her former album was with her Folk Duo “Folkfish”, it was comprised of Irish, English and Scottish Folk ballads. She actually had spent a year gigging around the folk clubs in Dublin(O’Donoghues Pub), Edinburgh(Edinburgh Folk Club, Royal Oak), Galway,etc. While in Dublin, she appeared several times on RTE Radio and her reputation got her the name “Nightingale of Grafton Street” , since she used to be busking on Garfton Street for quite a while. She studied Philosophy at Bosphorus University, Istanbul , from where she received her M.A Degree in Philosophy in 2006 as well. She is quite a multi-culti person herself so to speak and you can tell by looking at the title of her M.A thesis: “Liberal Multiculturalism and the individual: An alternative account of Cultural Identities”. She spent a year travelling around Asia overland during which she travelled from Vietnam to Turkey overland. She is currently working as a freelance journalist at Zaman Newspaper, writing as “Fulya Ozlem” . Having written a cookery column called “Trav’ler’s Cuisine”, she is now doing interviews for the culture& arts section of the Saturday Supplement called Cumaertesi again at Zaman. She also writes weekly at Today’s Zaman on music, food and her weekly column called “Urban Legends” every Friday at Expat Zone. She directed a short film called “Sunflower” last year. Right now, she is working on a documentary about a Roman Dance teacher in Istanbul, called “Red Rose Street: A Reyhan Tuzsuz documentary”. She is currently doing her PhD at I.T.U’s Sate Conservatory of Turkish Music on “Musicology and Music Theory”.

Ozan-sarkici geleneginin en yeni temsilcilerinden Fulya’nin Buz Kralicesi adli ilk solo albumu Irem Records imzasini tasiyor. Neredeyse tumu Fulya’nin besteleri ve sozlerinden olusan albumun aranjorlugunu Cem Tuncer, produktorlugunu ise Aykut Gurel ustlenmis. Lisans ve yuksek lisansini Bogazici Universitesi Felsefe Bolumu’nde tamamlayan Fulya, daha önce Folkfish adli grubuyla Irlanda, Iskoc ve Ingiliz folk sarkilari soyledi.Ilk albumu Folkfish irlanda ve ingiliz folk baladlari’ndan olu–uyordu. Dublin, Edinburgh ve Melbourne’de folk Club’larda soyledi ve sokak performanslari yapti. RTE irlanda radyosu’nda canli performanslar, Edinburgh fringe festivali’nde cesitli dinletiler verdi. Cocuklugunda aldigi Turk Sanat Muzigi egitimi ve Ingiliz folk muzigi etkisi halen sarkilarinda hissediliyor. Fulya ayni zamanda bir gezgin, universiteden sonra 2 yil Iskocya’dan Avustralya’ya, Vietnam’dan Iran’a dek karayoluyla gectigi uzun bir seyahatten sonra dondugunde yogun bir sekilde sarki yazma surecine girmis ve ortaya Buz Kralicesi’ndeki sarkilar cikmis.Heybesinde Irlanda’da sokak performanslari esnasinda 2000 albumunu bizzat satmak ve bu sayede dunyayi gezecek kadar para kazanmak gibi ilginc deneyimler var bu geziden kalma. Gecen yil yine (2007-Nisan) Halep’ten Kudus’e sadece kadinlardan olusan “Follow The Women” baris konvoyuna katilarak bisikletle Ortadogu’yu gezdi. Yaz aylarinda ciktigi Arjantin-Uruguay seyahatinde Tango ve Folklorico sarkiciligiyla tanisti ve su an heyecan duydugu en yeni aktivite ispanyolca sarkilar yazmak. Fulya, seyahatlerinde katildigi mutfak workshoplari sayesinde Zaman Gazetesi Cumaertesi eki’nde bir yil boyunca surdurdugu “Gezgin’in Mutfagi” kosesini yazdi, halen ayni gazetede yazi ve roportajlar yaparak gazetecilige devam ediyor. Today’s Zaman gazetesi’nde ise ingilizce olarak “Urban Legends”i, “Gezgin’in Mutfagi”ni ve haftalik muzik yazilarini yaziyor. 2006 tarihli B.U. Mithat Alam Film Merkezi destegiyle cektigi Gunebakan isimli bir de kisa filmi var Fulya’nin. Bu film Filmmor, Hisar Kisa Film Festivali gibi festivallerde gosterildi, B.U’de senaryo odulune, Kocaeli’ndeyse 2006 2. Genc Yetenekler Kisa Film Yarismasi’nda 3.luk odulune layik goruldu. Su siralar Roman Dansi ve Dans ogretmeni üzerine bir belgesel cekiyor. Adi: “Gul Sokak: Bir Reyhan Tuzsuz Hikayesi” Akademik hayatina ise Atina Universitesi Felsefe Bolumu’nde “Wittgenstein ve Kimlik” konulu doktorasiyla ve I.T.U Turk Musikisi Devlet Konservatuari’nda Muzikoloji doktorasiyla devam ediyor.