The need for a joint Arab-Turkish film production
When Turkish director Murat Onbol and his team moved towards the southern Turkish border, specifically in Gaziantep, which is teeming with Syrians, many amateur Syrian refugees found themselves in front of cinema cameras to act in a movie. The amateur Syrian actors collaborated with other Turkish professionals in Gaziantep and also in Jarablus in the northern countryside of Aleppo; To present us with a cinematic epic in 2018 chronicling the events of the revolution, the movie “Daraa, for my brother”.
The film was not an Arab-Turkish production in the traditional sense because it was funded by the Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture and TRT channel, but it was a serious attempt to enter Arab issues for the Turkish silver screen, an attempt that was not repeated after that on the same level.
Turkish cinema did not take a share of what historical and social drama took in terms of support and spread, as the latter achieved a number of goals to introduce Arab viewers to Turkish society and history, and to present a narrative other than the one that prevailed for decades on the common Turkish-Arab history. Turkish film production has remained far from the Arab viewer, although it has greatly multiplied during the past decades, as the area of its spread in the Arab world at the level of presentation or co-production remained very low despite the high technical level; The Turkish movie “The Commitment” reached the Oscar nominations in 2020, and the movie “Miracle in Dungeon No. 7” reached the Oscar nominations last year 2021.
Political factors may have played some role in the absence of Turkish films from Arab cinema screens on the one hand, and the absence of co-production on the other hand. But there is an important factor, which is that Turkey and India are among the few countries in the world whose local films are very popular in theaters in the motherland, and outperform Hollywood films at the box office. It is a unique phenomenon that is not repeated even in the European countries themselves; This discourages many producers from venturing into the Arab market, especially as European cinemas open their doors wide to Turkish films, especially countries with a large Turkish community such as Germany.
Some Arab stars have made important strides on the individual level, including the Syrian actor Ghassan Masoud, who starred in the 2006 Turkish movie “Valley of the Wolves, Iraq” directed by Serdar Akar, and the Turkish movie “The Butterfly” in 2009 directed by Cihan Taskin and Junay Günaydin.
Some Turkish cinematic works have recently gained popularity and great viewing in the Arab world through YouTube, although they revolve around the historical drama of the TV works themselves, and can even be considered an extension of it, such as the movie “Al-Fateh 1453” directed by Farouk Aksoy in 2012 about the story of the conquest of Constantinople. . Also, the movie “The Sword of Justice, the Turks Are Coming” directed by Camil Aydin 2020, which is a second part of the movie “The Conqueror 1453” as it deals with the military role of the Ottomans in heading towards Europe after the conquest of Constantinople in the 15th century. The huge number of views on YouTube is an indication of the level of Arab demand for such works.
There is a cultural, artistic and economic need for Arab contact with Turkish film production for several reasons. The first is that the Arab film production market has entered a stage of great weakness for many reasons that are difficult to enumerate here, and artistic openness to other emerging cinematic experiences is an important factor for presenting distinguished cinematic works. The second is from an economic point of view, as the co-production shares the huge budget of the films, and in return promises to share large profits. The third is that the common social denominators between the Arab and Turkish societies, as well as the many historical intersections, provide fertile narrative material for cinematic works. Fourth, and the most important point, is that the cinematic language – especially the romantic and poetic aspects – can be easily understood by Arab and Turkish viewers, regardless of the language barrier; There is a difference between watching a foreign movie that one enjoys and that will eventually be a window to another world, and watching a movie that belongs to one’s own culture and feel as if he is looking in the mirror and discovering himself and conversing with it.
There is also a fundamental aspect related to the suffering of many talented Arab independent directors in dealing with European-funded co-productions, for example; The requirements of the donor impede the completion of many film projects due to the lack of understanding or desire of the European side to shed light on some stories with Arab cultural backgrounds. Also, European co-productions usually disperse between several parties from different European countries, each of which has a share of the film’s ownership rights, and assuming the success of the project, it makes its way to win many prizes in international festivals and cannot be shown publicly or through one of the television channels because of the complexity of Unfortunately, it ends up on the archives shelves, as is the case with many Arab films that were produced in this way.
Some Arab stars have taken important steps at the individual level towards this direction, including the Syrian actor Ghassan Masoud, who appeared in the Turkish film “Valley of the Wolves, Iraq” in 2006 directed by Serdar Akar, and the Turkish film “The Butterfly” in 2009 directed by Cihan Taskin and Junay Günaydin. . They are individual attempts, but they were successful.
Moving forward with Arab-Turkish joint production on a broader and larger level requires only the desire and will of some production bodies, whether at the official level or the private sector. Several months ago, the Pakistanis took important steps in this direction, albeit at the level of television drama, as the Turkish “Akli” company and the Pakistani “Ansari Shah” company announced the start of a huge joint production project for a series dealing with the story of the great leader Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi. I imagine it will be a prelude to larger co-production projects on different scales.
In his study of the joint Arab and Turkish cinematic history, the former director of foreign radio stations at the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, Arslan Küçük Yildiz, says that there is a long history of joint Arab-Turkish film production dating back to the 1930s and extending to the 1970s, passing through a phase in the late 1960s, when Egyptian artist Farid Shawqi is the hero of many Turkish films that were issued in two versions, one dubbed for the Turks and the other for the Arab viewer. Yildiz suggests that Arab-Turkish production is moving forward at a rapid pace, not only in the field of film production, but also in terms of organizing joint film festivals and providing tax incentives to facilitate production and marketing operations.