Monday, January 07, 2008

PSIFF08: TAKVA (A MAN’S FEAR OF GOD)—A Few Questions For Director Özer Kiziltan and Scriptwriter Onder Cakar

Michael Guillén: First of all, thank you for accompanying your film to the Palm Springs International. Takva is quite a complex, textured depiction of one Muslim’s crisis of faith in the modern world. I’m intrigued —since the two of you are here— how the script was developed and what your challenges were working together as director and scriptwriter presenting this question of faith?

Onder Cakar: We are members of a company in Turkey made up of seven or eight directors who have worked together as a team for the past 10 years. Özer joined us as a filmmaker this year and—though Takva is the company’s fifth movie—it is Özer’s first. When I decided to write the script, I was not really part of the culture and not a believer in Islam. It is foreign to me. But Özer and I visited religious orders all around Turkey researching them in depth and worked for four years developing the script.

Guillén: I imagine the film has had its share of controversy?

Cakar: Within the aspect of cinema, there have been no threats or controversies. It has been welcomed. The people who we expected not to like the film, didn’t like it. There were some big arguments, especially regarding which specific religious order the film was representing. But we were careful about not representing any one religious order. We mixed everything up so that no one specific order could be pinpointed. That might be why the film has avoided any real threats it might have otherwise had.

Guillén: What fraction or percentage of Turkish people would practice Islam as shown in this film?

Özer Kiziltan: The fundamentalists rule the country at this time; the ruling government is a fundamentalist party. I wouldn’t know how to provide you a percentage of how many Turkish Muslims practice Islam in this way because it is forbidden to do so in Turkey. Still, all around Turkey there are roughly 25,000 cults practicing in ways similar to those shown in the film; 250 cults in Istanbul alone. I can’t give you an exact percentage.

Guillén: If it’s forbidden to have orders like this in Turkey, how were you able to conduct your research? Was it necessarily secretive?

Kiziltan: We had the right connections! [Laughter.] We did have to exercise discretion. The actors practiced their movements in our offices at night. One night, the woman living downstairs called the police.

Guillén: Though Takva poses the question of whether or not it’s possible to faithfully practice Islam in today’s modern world, would it be fair to say that your film suggests that the world is in conflict with any religious faith, including Christianity?

Kiziltan: Any religion can drive a man insane in this modern world. It could be Christianity.

Guillén: How has the film been received in Turkey?

Kiziltan: We had good circulation. The numbers and figures were good. When it was shown on TV, it was No. 1 in ratings. At the festivals we’ve attended, we’ve received awards. And it’s Turkey's submission for the foreign language Academy Award. So the film has been well-received. Turkish audiences have liked it.

Guillén: Next film?

Kiziltan: Something about Kurds in Istanbul.

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