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

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Dictionaries
  • Turkish Cinema Industry and Reception

Cinema and Media Studies Turkish Cinema
Diana Gonzalez-Duclert
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0251


Beginning with the 1982 Palme d’Or at Cannes for Yilmaz Güney’s Yol, Turkish cinema entered into the international forefront. This recognition and the classification of Yol as a “Turkish” film (made by a Turkish and Kurdish filmmaker) underline the overriding challenge of defining and categorizing a national cinema. Scholars, students, and their research have reflected this interrogation. Contemporary study has approached the evolution of Turkish cinema from its depiction of a state’s desire to unify a newly formed Republic (1923), through to a golden era of popular entertainment (Yesilçam), and continuing with today’s “New Turkish Cinema”—reflection on a nation’s traumatic social, political, and cultural past symbolized by metaphoric personal narratives. Through this recent film movement and its global recognition, a new generation of Turkish and world cinema film scholars, publishing in English, has emerged. It is a generation with academic rigor, courage, and commitment to re-examine the relation of Turkish cinema to a nation’s past and a “new cinema’s” relation to a current evolution in Turkish society’s political and social perspectives against state power. Turkish cinema has a long history. Most scholars date the first Turkish-made film at the beginning of World War I with Demolition of the Russian Monument at San Stefano by Fuat Uzkinay in 1914 (though its “first film” status remains disputed). However, extensive Turkish film scholarship is a quite recent development. A history of Turkish cinema was published in 1962 (interestingly, two years after the 1960 coup d’état), Turk sinema tarihi (A History of Turkish Cinema) by Nijat Özön (b. 1927–d. 2010) (Özön 1962, cited under History of Turkish Cinema: General History). More than twenty years later, a second prominent Turkish-Italian film scholar, Giovanni Scognamillo, wrote Türk sinema tarihi: 1896–1986 (History of Turkish Cinema: 1896–1986), though not published until 1990 (Scognamillo 1990, cited under History of Turkish Cinema: General History). Neither of these works has been translated into English; however, they have been well addressed and analyzed in an important essay on the historiography of Turkish cinema (Murat Akser, “Towards a New Historiography of Turkish Cinema” [Akser 2014, cited under Post-Yesilçam and the New Turkish Cinema]). The most innovative and vigorous work has emerged from the 1990s onward. Thematic analysis has centered on subjects that pertain to the Turkish state’s struggle to recognize its multiple ethnic, social, and cultural identities, all of which are subject matters relevant to many other Middle Eastern regions and diasporas. Identity, memory, women, minorities, exile, traditionalism, modernism, and nationalism are all reoccurring themes, yet defined differently throughout. The Turkish diasporic cinema, particularly coming out of Germany, has also come to the forefront of Turkish film scholarship. In the end, the fundamental question still permeates the recent works, as stated by Yilmaz Güney (cited in Gönül Dönmez-Colin, Turkish Cinema: Identity, Distance and Belonging): “Turkey is a country with several nations. For this reason, considering social contradictions and national differences, we must make films of ‘Turkey’ and not ‘Turkish films’” (Dönmez-Colin 2008, cited under Identity (Cultural, Ethnic, and National), p. 21).

General Overviews

Due to the newness of scholarship on Turkish cinema and the lack of English translations, general overviews on Turkish cinema are not extensive. Although perhaps less obvious as overviews, several works offer good starting points for students. Bayrakdar 2009 covers Turkish cinema in the context of the evolving transnationalism of Europe. Bayrakdar 1996– is an important scholarly journal, in Turkish, which covers new research on diverse areas of Turkish cinema. Despite the encyclopedic title of the Dönmez-Colin 2007 work, it is not a collection of brief general overviews, but rather, analytic essays by prominent academics on filmmakers and films which have become representative of various periods of Turkish film history. Needham and Eleftheriotis 2006 offers an entire chapter of three in-depth essays, which concentrates on the Yesilçam period and the theme of national identity. Despite only covering films up to 1983, Woodhead 1989 offers the most introductory overview. However, other works on the New Turkish Cinema will need to be consulted (see Post-Yesilçam and the New Turkish Cinema).

  • Bayrakdar, Deniz, ed. Türk Film Araştırmalarında Yeni Yönelimler. 1996–.

    A leading Turkish film journal published yearly, which includes essays from prominent film scholars covering new research and changing paradigms for the history and analysis of Turkish cinema. In Turkish. (Title translation: New Approaches to Turkish Film Studies.)

  • Bayrakdar, Deniz, ed. Cinema and Politics: Turkish Cinema and New Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2009.

    This is a work that covers European cinema, thereby underlining the paradox of Turkish identity and cultural discourse with Europe. Topics include post-Yesilçam cinema, Turkish cinema industry and reception, cinema engagé, cinema diaspora, nationalism, and religion. Most themes are analyzed through a political paradigm. Useful for advanced students and researchers.

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

    Collection of essays by prominent academics. Four Turkish films are studied: Hope (Yilmaz Güney), The Bride (Lütfi Ö. Akad), The Bandit (Yavuz Turgul), and Distant (Nuri Belge Ceylan). Some analysis focuses on the filmmaker, the sociopolitical context, and the film’s reception, while others concentrate on filmic analysis. Useful for undergraduate students, and a starting point for graduate students concentrating on what are considered definitive films for these periods of Turkish cinema history.

  • Ellinger, Ekkehard, and Kerem Kayi, eds. Turkish Cinema 1970–2007: A Bibliography and Analysis. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2008.

    A source essential for beginning undergraduate and graduate students. Useful for all levels of research. First section is an extensive non-annotated bibliography (see also Bibliographies) as well as a brief but comprehensive history of Turkish cinema, genres, filmmakers, and films.

  • Needham, Gary, and Dimitris Eleftheriotis, eds. Asian Cinema: A Reader and Guide. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.

    The chapter with three sections on “Turkish National Cinema” focuses on how the Yesilçam period articulates a discourse (or not) on Turkish national identity. Analysis uses less Anglocentric theoretical models in defining whether or not a Turkish “national” cinema exists. Best for advanced undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Woodhead, Christine, ed. Turkish Cinema: An Introduction. London: University of London SOAS Turkish Area Group, 1989.

    A comprehensive introduction to Turkish filmmakers and their films, as well as the social and political contexts that accompanied Turkish cinema from its beginnings (dated as 1914) to 1983. The cinematic industry as well as its aesthetics and basic theoretical topics are addressed at a level accessible to undergraduate students.

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