In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Turkish Cinema

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Kurdish Cinema

Islamic Studies Turkish Cinema
Murat Akser
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 February 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0236


Turkish Cinema studies goes back to 1968 with the publication of Nijat Ozon’s filmography. Before that, there has been film criticism by journalists in short-lived film magazines and newspapers. The first theoretical attempt define Turkish cinema as a culturally distinct cinema came from a film director, Halit Refiğ’s Fight For a National Cinema (Ulusal Sinema Kavgasi), and works after that came to view Turkish cinema as an umbrella term used to describe the cinema produced by filmmakers living in the Republic of Turkey established in 1923. General overviews of Turkish cinema are rather recent and published mostly in English. There are bibliographic attempts in English and in Turkish. Some of the research focuses on early, pre-republican cinema produced during Ottoman Empire. Because of the change of alphabet from Arabic to Latin in the 1920s, the research on pre-1928 Turkish cinema is done mostly by historians who are able to read the Arabic script. The growth of Turkish film studies is correlated to the increase in film production beginning in the 1950s. That has led to writing on particular genres that are audience favorites, such as melodrama and comedy. Yeşilçam (Green Pine) cinema represents the classical period of Turkish cinema, roughly from the 1960s to the 1980s. This period included production systems, star personas, and adaptations of American films. The same period also saw the national cinema debate among directors and critics who were committed to social realism in the 1960s. The 1970s and 1980s witnessed the creation of film studies departments in state universities. The scholarship produced at the time was based on structural semiotics. This scholarly tradition was later challenged by film scholars who studied abroad in US/UK academic tradition and came back to Turkey to establish film departments in private universities. A new wave of filmmakers since the 1990s has forced film scholars to rename the current production regime as the “new cinema of Turkey.” The final position of film scholars in the post-1990 period is that there is a cinema of Turkey rather than Turkish cinema. It is about recovering lost memories, and an expression of ethnic, linguistic, and religious identities that were long been suppressed under the republican regime. This new cinema has its international auteurs favored by film festivals and funding agencies. In a similar vein, some Turkish directors also produce abroad, creating hyphenated identities in diasporic audiences, such as Turkish-German cinema. The current scholarship on Turkish cinemas stresses cultural studies and analysis of identities, such as class, race, and gender.

General Overviews

A number of recent works on Turkish cinema have laid the groundwork for future scholars. Woodhead 1989 is the earliest study to define main issues, such as the first Turkish film, stars, and melodrama. Ilal 1987 basically narrates the official history of Turkish cinema for beginners. Basutçu 1996 is a French book published as part of commemoration of one hundred years of cinema. It is a first attempt at giving the full details of the history of Turkish cinema: it provides context, stars, auteur directors, and a list of the top 100 films, with rich photographs. Erdoğan and Göktürk 2001 provide an overview through a historical review, description of genres, audience figures, coproductions, reception abroad, credits and synopses of select films, and bios of select film directors. Dönmez-Colin 2007 discusses Turkish films that had an impact on world cinema, and Dönmez-Colin 2008 provides a survey of the history of cinema in Turkey, and then goes on to a discussion of the main themes of the post-1990s new cinema. Atakav 2013 is a detailed thematic and compartmentalized selection of films discussed by different scholars.

  • Atakav, Eylem. Directory of World Cinema: Turkey. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2013.

    This is an edited volume of film criticism. It is divided into thematic sections that give a brief introduction to each topic discussed, followed by one page of film critiques. The division is based on film periods, genres, and mode of production. By focusing on both art house and popular trash cinema, this volume does justice to the entire volume of 7,000 films produced in Turkish cinema.

  • Basutçu, Mehmet. Le cinéma turc. Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1996.

    This book is a comprehensive attempt to bring together basic information on all the major films, stars, and directors of Turkish cinema for French readers. The sections are mostly divided by chronological perspective. It has beautiful B&W photographer courtesy of Mimar Sinan University’s Turkish Film Institute library.

  • Dönmez-Colin, Gönül, ed. The Cinema of North Africa and the Middle East. London: Wallflower, 2007.

    This book has contributions from film scholars discussing cinema from Turkey, Iran, and Egypt. Notable entries on Guney’s Hope, Akad’s Bride, Turgul’s The Bandit, and Ceylan’s Distant.

  • Dönmez-Colin, Gönül. Turkish Cinema: Identity, Distance and Belonging. London: Reaktion Books, 2008.

    One of the seminal books that discuss the post-1990 “new cinema of Turkey” from an “identities” perspective. Before going into detailed discussion of the new cinema, the book details the old, classical Turkish cinema. It has detailed sections of migrant identities, Yilmaz Guney’s cinema, and gender and sexuality.

  • Erdoğan, Nezih, and Deniz Göktürk. “Turkish Cinema.” In Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film. Edited by Oliver Leaman, 533–537. London: Routledge, 2001.

    This entry is part of a larger volume on MENA Cinema. It has a brief historical and theoretical introduction on early and popularYeşilçam cinema. The section includes figures on audience size and details how a censorship mechanism controlled production aesthetics. Deals with social issues such as migration cinema.

  • Ilal, Ersan. “On Turkish Cinema.” In Film and Politics in the Third World. Edited by John D. H. Downing, 119–129. New York: Praeger, 1987.

    Gives a detailed historical overview citing the connection between political events and periods and developments in Turkish cinema. Relies more on facts, figures, and biographical details on personalities then analysis of concepts.

  • Woodhead, Christine, ed. Turkish Cinema: An Introduction. London: Centre of Near & Middle Eastern Studies, 1989.

    A very early collection of four articles on Turkish cinema. The essay on melodrama is strikingly fresh today.

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