Masters of Cinema in Turkey: Lütfi Akad

A special exhibition for cinema lovers at Istanbul Modern

Istanbul Modern launches a new exhibition project devoted to the founding directors of Turkish cinema. “Masters of Cinema in Turkey” begins with Lüfti Akad, whose filmography and 95-year life reflect the story of cinema in Turkey. In addition to the exhibition, the program includes a selection of the director’s films.

Istanbul Modern continues to hold exhibitions that have an archival character focusing on cinema in Turkey. Our research exhibition “One Hundred Years of Love: The Affair between Film and Audience in Turkey”, held on the 100th anniversary of Turkish cinema, was the first of its kind in Turkey. Now, Istanbul Modern presents an exhibition focusing on the founding directors of Turkish cinema. The first guest of the project “Masters of Cinema in Turkey” is Lütfi Akad.

Lütfi Akad initiated the “Filmmakers’ Era” by bringing a new direction to Turkish cinema, which had long been influenced by theater. Commemorating the centenary of Akad’s birth, the exhibition is accompanied by a film program consisting of 10 of the veteran director’s films which reflect different periods of his career.


The Masterless Master

The exhibition sheds light on the cinema of Lütfi Akad who became known in the history of Turkish cinema as the “masterless master” and whose cinematic language influenced the directors who came after him. The exhibition brings together 100 pieces of archival material, including production stills, film stills, original scripts, and posters from Akad’s filmography that have never before seen the light of day.

The exhibition “Masters of Cinema in Turkey: Lütfi Akad” is held with the support of the General Directorate of Cinema of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, under the advisorship of Burçak Evren, and curated by head of the Istanbul Modern Cinema Department Müge Turan.

The exhibition will be on view between May 18-December 31, in the Istanbul Modern Cinema foyer.


A selection of Akad’s films

May 19 – 29, 2016

Held with the support of cinema sponsor Türk Tuborg AŞ. and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s General Directorate of Cinema, Istanbul Modern Cinema presents a film program in conjunction with the exhibition “Masters of Cinema in Turkey: Lütfi Akad.” The selection features Akad’s recently restored films, including Strike the Whore (1949), Akad’s first film considered a turning point in the history of cinema in Turkey; as well as Law of the Border (1966); My Prostitute Love (1969); the “Migration Trilogy” consisting of The Bride (1973), The Wedding (1973), and Blood Money (1974); and Four Seasons of Istanbul, the documentary about different aspects of Istanbul treated under four headings, for which Akad stepped behind the camera for the last time in 1990 and which was lost for many years.



Turkey | Bluray, Black & White, 112’ | Turkish with English subtitles
Director: Lütfi Akad
Cast: Sezer Sezin, Kemal Tanrıöver, Settar Körmükçü

This film, adapted to screen from Halide Edip Adıvar’s novel of the same name, was Akad’s debut film. Not only did it bring a new director to the cinema of Turkey but it also opened a new era. Aliye is a teacher in Anatolia who is a supporter of the National Forces during the Turkish War of Independence. The film shows how Aliye is stuck between the townspeople and the foreign troops and ends up being lynched to death because she comes into conflict with reactionary elements. Strike the Whore had a run of five weeks at the Istanbul Taksim Cinema and was a box-office record-breaker at that time.



Turkey | DVD, Black & White, 113’ | Turkish with English subtitles
Director: Lütfi Akad
Cast: Sadri Alışık, Çolpan İlhan, Turgut Özatay, Melahat İçli

Captain Rıdvan is a lonely man who finds peace in the harbors he visits, until he meets Countess Güner who lives in the care of Ali, a bar owner. The latter will not easily let go of Güner, who is a desperate character. The setting, which shows seedy places in a foggy Istanbul, corresponds to the lonely and melancholic state of mind of these characters, who find themselves mired in a pessimistic world. The film’s script was written by Atilla İlhan and is accompanied by the accordion and tango. Although it is evocative of the French poetic realism movement, it is actually one of the rare examples of Turkish film noir.


Turkey | DVD, Black & White, 96’ | Turkish with English subtitles
Director: Lütfi Akad
Cast: Ayhan Işık, Leyla Sayar, Turgut Özakay, Efgan Efekan, Melahat İçli

In the past, being a member of the fire brigade was equated with being a roughneck. In this film, the love between Murat Reis, the head of the fire brigade, and Müjgan, a pasha’s daughter, is jeopardized because of the promise Murat Reis makes to Müjgan’s father. While the film is about the story of a man torn between his love and his honor, it also portrays Istanbul prior to the founding of the Republic and the social values of that period. This measured drama à la Akad takes the viewer on a nostalgic photographic tour in the streets of old Istanbul.



Turkey | Digibetacam, Black & White, 118’ | Turkish
Director: Lütfi Akad
Cast: Yılmaz Güney, Pervin Par, Muharrem Gürses

Akad’s desire to make a film about the problems of the country and his quest to capture a spare cinematic language intersect in this film. The Law of the Border, in which Akad and Yılmaz Güney crossed paths, criticizes exploitation by the agrarian elite, bigotry, and the corrupt system through the eyes of two villagers smuggling along the border. Banned three times in the past by the censorship board, the film is considered as one of the first examples of national cinema. Yılmaz Güney in the role of Hıdır won the Golden Orange for Best Actor in 1967. We will be viewing the restored copy that was screened in 2011 at Cannes in memory of Lütfi Akad.



Turkey | Digibetacam, Black & White, 71’ | Turkish
Director: Lütfi Akad
Cast: Yılmaz Güney, Nilüfer Koçyiğit, Kadir Savun

This Anatolian legend, which Nâzım Hikmet based on two folk songs, is one of the most striking examples of the collaboration between Akad and Yılmaz Güney and has influenced the movies Güney himself directed. Ali Haydar, who is a shepherd, is in love with Hatice, the daughter of the nomad leader. But as this is contrary to their customs, the village elders lay down one condition: The sheep will be fed salt for three days; if they can cross the river without drinking any water the girl will be his. The enamored shepherd succeeds but the nomad leader gives his daughter to someone else, which leads the entire tribe to revolt. Treating of the timelessness of legends with a plain and simple narrative style and the folk songs of Pir Sultan Abdal, Red River, Black Sheep indicates the beginning of a new phase for the director.



Turkey | DVD, Black & White, 93’ | Turkish with English subtitles
Director: Lütfi Akad
Cast: Hülya Koçyiğit, Kerem Yılmazer, Kahraman Kıral

Akad produced one of the most important works in his filmography in the form of a trilogy in 1973. In this first film, he examines a family of nine who migrate to Istanbul from Yozgat, where they were shopkeepers, and their struggle to survive in the city. Thanks to their diligence, Hacı İlyas and his family wish to quickly expand their business and open a grocery store in an upscale neighborhood. Rather than the hope to find a new job, the film tells the story of the rise of an Anatolian family who wish to expand their business further, and how, in the process, they sacrifice their human values to feudalism and greed.



Turkey | DCP, Color, 84’ | Turkish with English subtitles
Director: Lütfi Akad
Cast: Hülya Koçyiğit, Kamuran Usluer, Turgut Boralı

This film tells the story of a family who migrates to Istanbul from Şanlıurfa, and explores the themes of migration and bride-price. The men of the family are able to slightly improve their economic situation by giving away the girls of the family to the first-comers in return for a hefty bride-price, in accordance with the traditions brought from the village. But Zeliha, one of the girls of the family, revolts against this attitude and, at the risk of clashing with the men of the family, saves her sisters who are, in a sense, sold in return for bride-price.



Turkey | DCP, Color, 90’ | Turkish with English subtitles
Director: Lütfi Akad
Cast: Hülya Koçyiğit, Hakan Balamir, Erol Günaydın

In this final installment of the migration trilogy, the focal point is factory work considered as the beginning of the process of urbanization. Hacer and Hasan, who work in the same factory, get married. Hacer is worried that Hasan may be injure by the machine that he operates, because, before Hasan, Mustafa had an accident at the same machine, which left him crippled. And, because he was employed unlawfully he could not receive any compensation. Having witnessed all that had happened to her neighbor Mustafa, Hacer is drawn closer to the union in the factory. This brings Hacer into confrontation with Hasan who is close to the boss. Looking at the transition from semi-feudal relationships to capitalism and Turkey’s socioeconomic spectrum, the film seeks to show the efforts of these two people to survive and their quest for rights.



Turkey | DCP, Color, 88’ | Turkish with English subtitles
Director: Lütfi Akad
Cast: Türkan Şoray, İzzat Günay, Ayfer Feray

Although it may seem like an ordinary Yeşilçam melodrama, there’s something about this cult film by Akad that is not named and sets it apart from others of its kind. “— Ask him if he’s married! — I can’t... — Why not? — What if he says yes?” The story of the film, which virtually resists this dialogue, is set in 1968 in Istanbul. Sabiha is singing on stage. Halil can’t take his eyes off her. Halil is a married greengrocer of moderate means. Safa Önal wrote the script for this heartbroken, sentimental classic of melodrama in Turkish cinema based on a story by Sait Faik. With its romanticism, nostalgia, sincerity, aesthetic and narrative subtleties, and the successful performances of the impossible lovers Sabiha (Şoray) and Halil (Günay), the film has been hailed as an unforgettable masterpiece.



Turkey | HDD, Color, 207’ | Turkish
Director: Lütfi Akad

The four episodes of this documentary, which Akad made for TRT, are titled Birth, Istanbul is a Song, Istanbul is a Longing, andIstanbul is a Fight. The documentarytreats of the different aspects of Istanbul through the four seasons. The Istanbul of that time is told through the occasional use of actors and dramatization. Many actors who are famous now appear in the documentary as they were 22 years ago. The people of this big city, their ways of life, and the places where they work, have fun, or fight are shown with almost no voice-over narration and often relying on the power of imagery and music. Four Season of Istanbul is the last film for which Akad stepped behind the camera.