‘Ghosts’ Director Azra Deniz Okyay on Venice Prize-Winning Debut

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Simply moments into the opening sequence of Azra Deniz Okyay’s kinetic drama “Ghosts,” a voice crackles over a radio information bulletin, declaring: “Istanbul has become a struggle zone.” It’s a fittingly turbulent introduction to the writer-director’s function debut, which charted a tough course to completion en path to successful the Grand Prize at Venice’s Critics’ Week this 12 months.

Okyay started writing the script 5 years in the past, struggling to boost financing till a breakthrough final 12 months, when she met producer Dilek Aydın and scraped collectively the funds to begin manufacturing. “We received like $70,000. It was nothing,” Okyay advised Selection, with amusing. “We determined to make it in a guerrilla method, an actual punk method.”

“Ghosts” is about throughout a single day throughout a nationwide energy surge, and follows 4 characters from totally different walks of life caught up in an internet of drug trafficking within the ghettos of Istanbul. The movie is produced by Aydın’s Heimatlos Movies and co-produced by Marie-Pierre Macia and Claire Gadéa of MPM Movie. MPM Premium is dealing with world gross sales.

Okyay mentioned she was decided to make “Ghosts” as a testomony to what she describes as “Istanbul’s misplaced technology,” and its resilience within the face of financial, cultural, and political uncertainty. “We made the movie in 17 days with 30 totally different [locations],” she mentioned. “It was an actual hardcore film to make.”

Selection spoke to Okyay forward of the Thessaloniki Movie Competition, which runs on-line Nov. 5-15, the place “Ghosts” will display screen in competitors.

5 years in the past, you began writing “Ghosts” because the story of 4 characters from totally different elements of Istanbul that might take a look at a number of the challenges going through your technology. How did that story and people characters evolve, as Turkey modified as a rustic, and as you modified as a author and filmmaker?

I started to see the massive modifications after 2010, as a result of in 2010, Istanbul was actually about artwork. Younger folks had been opening galleries. Folks had been actually making an attempt to return right here as creators. It was like a brand new Berlin. After which, abruptly, these little locations started to shut. The town was altering rather a lot and we couldn’t discover a approach to survive—as an artist, as a teenager, as a human. After [Turkey’s presidential elections in] 2014, issues had been actually altering with the political state of affairs. And in addition about ideology and democracy. I started to jot down, and I used to be seeing that what I used to be doing – in artwork and writing – was feeling like Jack Kerouac, of the Beat technology. I started to really feel it was regular to jot down like that, being hyperactive, simply making an attempt to get my phrases on paper, and simply saying, “We are attempting to outlive. We’re disappearing. What are we? Are we ghosts?” So I started to jot down about that.

“Ghosts” was partly impressed by younger girls you met within the ghettos of Istanbul. Are you able to speak about how you bought concerned with them, and what function they performed in your strategy to this movie?

In 2008, Sulukule was the oldest ghetto of Europe, and it was destroyed by the Turkish authorities. It was like 500 years previous, and it was a very necessary cultural habitat. My father was an architect on the group that was making an attempt to maintain it secure, and it was destroyed. It was a very massive emotional downside for us. We might see all [over] the nation what was going on, a sort of collapse. I noticed it sort of echoed what [the government] would do sooner or later.

A pal of mine was [working in Sulukule]. She was making an attempt to get the kids to learn books, as a result of they had been not likely going to high school. They had been making an attempt to get an schooling. So I went there after this destruction, and I discovered a constructing the place some youngsters had been taking part in. And I made a decision I used to be going to point out some movies. The primary day they had been so hyperactive that they might not focus. And I confirmed them “Run Lola Run,” by Tom Tykwer. It was superb. I actually felt some robust emotion and braveness from them. Since you’re so depressed while you’re making an attempt to dwell in a rustic like this. Getting mild from anyplace, from totally different cultures, is how I grew up. My grandmother, she’s from Greece, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. My father is from Turkmenistan. You all the time must have a hybrid approach to assume. I’m like that. I simply received this mild from them, and began writing about methods to survive.

“Ghosts” is in some ways a narrative about feminine energy and solidarity, however it additionally exposes a whole lot of the vulnerabilities girls face in Turkey—about sexuality, about their our bodies. Was it troublesome or dangerous so that you can shoot on the streets of Istanbul?

Once you’re taking pictures a film like that in a rustic like this, you need to all the time be so protecting together with your group, and in addition so brave and so disciplined. We had been so hyperactive with my producer. Earlier than coming to the set, we knew each step [of the shoot]. For this movie, I wanted to close down all of the electrical energy of the neighborhood. Usually, we get some papers, some rights to shut. However I used to be like, “If sooner or later earlier than, there’s a coup d’etat, how can we shut it down?” On a regular basis, I used to be occupied with one thing. All the time considering 5 occasions extra to discover a answer if it was not working.

Did you may have any particular challenges?

One of the crucial loopy issues was, we get the rights to shoot from the municipality, from the nation, from the neighborhood, from the policemen. One of many final scenes of the movie, the place is burning, and I can simply shoot this scene one time. However after I was going to begin taking pictures this scene, abruptly my assistant referred to as me and mentioned, “Truly, we have to cease proper now, as a result of there are six tanks of policemen with 30 Kalashnikovs pointed towards us.” They thought it was a giant riot within the neighborhood, and so they thought that they had been all terrorists and rioters that had been going to burn the neighborhood. As a result of it was really like that two years in the past, and so they put all people in jail.

It was actually loopy. And I used to be stopped. There have been three guys, policemen, one in all them was the chief of the counter-terrorism [unit] in Istanbul. One other was a police official. Just like the three most necessary folks of Istanbul thought it was a giant riot. I simply received out of the automotive and I used to be like, “Hello, I’m taking pictures a film.” And the man didn’t perceive I used to be a director. As a result of I used to be a girl, he didn’t perceive. It was like saying, “I’m an astronaut.” He didn’t perceive what I used to be saying.

There may be a whole lot of darkness—literal and metaphorical—on this movie. However with out giving something away, I feel it ends on a hopeful word. What provides you hope as a girl, as a filmmaker, or simply as an abnormal citizen in Turkey right this moment?

There’s the saying that within the darkest second of the night time, the sunshine is coming. The final scene was actually about improvisation within the second. I didn’t have time for an additional scene. It’s actually residing like that in Turkey. If you are able to do one thing, it turns into slightly miracle, and it’s so lovely. That is the actual factor about residing in Turkey. I am keen on my nation, I am keen on how they’re looking for their very own method. There may be this darkness, we realized, however there’s a mild that may come from this darkness. And I’m certain that we are going to be an inspiration for different folks, not simply in Turkey. Additionally, this technology is so artistic. There’s an expression in Turkey: “Quickly the water goes to search out its method.” It was actually necessary to convey this movie to the sunshine to point out how we’re artistic on this method.

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