Microscopic view of Turkey
by Vladan Petkovic
05/07/2010 - Cineuropa : You said you were interested in confronting reality with fiction in making Men on the Bridge [trailer, film focus]. Can you cite some influences?
Asli Ozge: Recently, I read an interview with the Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. He said he doesn’t want to create a product that identifies itself as a Marcel work. Instead, he would let his product have its own identity. I also believe in not being a slave of any particular style; I’d rather let the film build its own style according to its subject and conditions.
I started Men on the Bridge as a documentary, so naturally I was chasing "the real". I decided to switch to fiction because we could not get permission to film a real policeman and I had to cast an actor for this role. Also, I was controlling and repeating the scenes so much that we were getting away from the spontaneous way of filmmaking. And I wasn’t interested in what was happening in reality. Rather, I wanted to tell what interested me in these stories. That’s how I ended up writing a script based on my main characters' lives. Next, I asked them to act in the movie and used the real locations as well.
How much of it was improvised? Did you rehearse?
Sometimes I rehearsed, like with the policeman. Murat was rejected when he applied to the police academy and I thought that giving him a chance to be a policeman would be good motivation. For the scenes at the Bosphorus Bridge we had a lot of takes in order to have the timing and the acting correct. But mostly the actors were repeating after me, especially for the moments important to the dramaturgy. I like to provide a chance for the unexpected, so for the first take I always improvise, then I give some hints to the actors, and in the end I give them my text.
How did you choose the protagonists?
I often travel from the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side over the Bosphorus Bridge, where there is a constant traffic jam. While I was sitting in a shared taxi stuck in the gridlock, I started to photograph illegal street hawkers who sell things to bored drivers. Once I decided to follow them to their home. I talked to everybody in this area and heard lots of stories. Waiting on the bridge between Asia and Europe is like a metaphor for Turkey waiting to join the EU.
This uncertain future of Turkey affects mostly the young generation. I recognized that police, shared-taxi drivers and street hawkers are the only ones who are working directly on the bridge. In a way, it is a kind of microscopic view of Turkey through the social statuses of these people. So I looked for the protagonists suiting my concept: I needed different stages of youth and different statuses, [people] looking for different things. As research, I spent half a year around the bridge talking to everybody, hearing different stories and going after coincidences.
Another Turkish film that deals with a similar subject and features a character playing himself is Pelin Esmer’s 10 to 11 [trailer]. Can we speak of a sort of a "new wave" in Turkish film?
We didn’t know about each other’s projects and there are even more examples I can think of. I think it’s too early to call this a new wave, we have to wait and see the next films from these directors, but the cinema in Turkey was under the influence of theatre for a very long time. I believe young filmmakers had enough of these kinds of melodramas and overdosed on stage acting. Maybe it is kind of a late neo-realism, discovering the stories of the real people, going out to the streets. Only recently have Turkish directors began to realize that they can tell a story cinematically as well.