Mojo and Hayal Kahvesi, two night clubs in Istanbul's Beyoğlu neighborhood, were all the rage in the 1990s. Every Saturday night, visitors would flock inside to listen to numerous rock groups, including Blue Blues Band, a rock group whose drummer Kerim Çaplı had reached an almost legendary status in his youth after performing with Jimi Hendrix and The Monkees in the U.S. The frontman of the band, Yavuz Çetin, was an equally inspiring figure, who wrote lyrics, produced a solo album and was seen as a promising new voice. Alongside these "golden boys," Blue Blues Band featured Batu Mutlugil (guitar) and Zafer Şanlı (bass). Today, they are the only surviving members of this once legendary musical formation.
What has happened to Çaplı and Çetin? How could these two extraordinarily talented musicians, who were members of the same band, die so suddenly and under such tragic circumstances? After they are gone, what is left of rock musicians and their unrecorded performances? These questions lie at the heart of "Blue," Mehmet Sertan Ünver's moving tribute to the 1990s' rock scene in Turkey.
"The 1990s were my adolescent years, a period in which I started to see what was going on in the world around me," Ünver said in an interview last week.
"Like many who came of age in those years, I was trying to fit in. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to see Blue Blues Band live. I remember buying Yavuz's first album and listening to it over and over again."
Blue Blues Band's drummer Kerim Çaplı had reached an almost legendary status in his youth after performing with Jimi Hendrix and The Monkees in the U.S.
On Aug. 15, 2001, at around 7 p.m., Yavuz Çetin got out of his Peugeot car on the Bosporus Bridge. The night was dark and the view was beautiful but the musician was beyond himself as he jumped into the Bosporus. His suicide sent shockwaves among Istanbul's flourishing rock scene to whose popularity he had greatly contributed.
During his last year, Çetin was working on his second solo album while struggling against depression. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and under the strain of meeting expectations with his new album, frequently found himself unable to leave his apartment, spending the day in his pajamas.
"Yavuz's death has had a huge effect on me," Ünver, the film director, said. "It made me question things around me even more profoundly."
Yavuz Çetin, who wrote lyrics, produced a solo album and was seen as a promising new voice, was the frontman of the band.
As a drum enthusiast, Ünver was also aware of Kerim Çaplı, who died of cerebral edema only three years after Çetin, and stories of his legendary success in the 1960s in the US.
"But it was in 2004, right after his death, that I realized the scope of Çaplı's talent and genius," he said." I started dreaming about this film project in those days. A decade passed until my producer Suzan Güverte encouraged me. She made me see that I was now ready and experienced enough to set on this journey."
Once ready to film the story of Kerim Çaplı and his gradual disintegration, he came across the footage of an interview with Çaplı where the drummer seems like an unstable albeit fascinating figure.
"That interview was conducted by Selim Demirdelen, who has also tried to produce a documentary about Kerim Çaplı in those days," Ünver said. "When we contacted him in 2014 about our project, he was happy to share his research with us. His support and generosity was very crucial for our film. At the end of the day, the important thing was that Kerim's story was told. So he passed the torch to us, so to speak."
The film's carefully selected group of interviewees includes rock musicians Teoman, Aylin Aslım, the guitarist Erkan Oğur and actor Nejat İşler. They all tell stories of Çaplı's erratic behavior and his unmatched musical talent. Çaplı would at times get lost in his thoughts, cut off from his environment; at other times he would chat to fellow band members about his past.
"The main challenge with 'Blue' was to find a balance between two main story lines. We had to tell the story of their connection, the formation of the Blue Blues Band, and reflect the atmosphere of that period." This led to a very demanding editing process.
"Emotionally it's a very delicate subject," Ünver said. "We didn't want people to think that we were exploiting their feelings in any way. And yet, if one is willing to tell, or see, these stories, she must get her share of pain and tragedy."