A GLIMPSE INTO OTTOMAN-ERA CINEMA
Festival on Wheels will this year shake the dust from the archives and provide a glimpse into life in the Ottoman Empire. The clips included in this section were shot by foreigners who visited Ottoman lands in the empire's last days, between 1918 and 1926. From the Battle of Gallipoli, to Ottoman women who greet the camera by unveiling themselves on Istanbul streets, never-before-seen slices of life in the empire will be reflected on the silver screen.
"Scenes from the Ottoman Empire II," is a follow-up to "Scenes from the Ottoman Empire," screened in the 20th year of the festival, and is sponsored by the Dutch Embassy with the collaboration of EYE Film Institute to shed new light on the Ottoman Empire. Presented as an "archive project," the selection includes black-and-white and silent footage from the era. Viewers will enjoy screenings of this footage with the commentary of academician Nezih Erdoğan and beautiful melodies from the piano of Çiğdem Borucu.
While the footage includes locations such as Istanbul and Gallipoli in Turkey, there are also shots from Macedonia, Jerusalem and Yugoslavia, which were previously part of the Ottoman Empire. The historical, cultural and sociological scenes awaiting audiences include the Battle of Gallipoli from the eyes of the British and French, visits by Germany's Wilhelm II to Istanbul and Çanakkale in 1917, Macedonia before the population exchange, a group of Armenian orphans waiting in front of Kuleli High School in Istanbul, daily life in Jerusalem in 1925, and a group of women strolling the streets of Istanbul.
When cinematic historiography began, the Ottoman Empire had already collapsed; thus, there is no "History of Ottoman Cinema" in the literature. However, after its emergence in 1895, cinematography found its way to the various corners of the empire in a short time. While public screenings were held, cameramen that came from different places with different collections started travelling throughout the land; they shot movies and arranged screenings.
During this infancy period, the aim of cinema was not to tell stories to audiences but to impress them by screening extraordinary things. Any images that were worthy of recording, that might evoke curiosity and excitement among audiences, were recorded and shown all around the word. Then, cinema was a great invention in the entertainment world as it continued the fair tradition, and was as exciting and intriguing as other inventions of the time like automobiles and planes. While reading an illustrated book such as those on Istanbul by Pierre Loti or Edmondo de Amicis, or receiving a colored, illustrated postcard from a friend were all possible at the time, movies had a unique and utterly different place, as they were able to evoke the feeling that the viewers were visiting all those cities in person, in real life. Shots from boats or trams reminded people of strolls to the city centers. It was possible to see people walking or birds flying; in other words, parts of daily life, along with the enchanting, grand buildings.
FOREIGN ARMIES' OTTOMAN MOVIES
The high potential of motion images (or moving images) was instantly comprehended. Now, images could be used for documenting events, creating a mood and even for manipulation of the public. As international struggles escalated into World War I, new clips circulating all around the world started screening regularly at movie theaters. Many armies tried to create a visual projection and the shots by the British and French armies in Gallipoli became part of history.
PROJECT PROPOSES NEW QUESTIONS
For Festival on Wheels, this section does not claim to find answers to questions by using clips shot by foreigners during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire but embraces it as a project proposing new questions. Each archive image means a new subject to be discovered and a new topic to be discussed. Festival on Wheels invites all cinema lovers to get on board with this historical adventure.
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