Count Us In!


Count Us In!

December 5-22, 2019

Istanbul Modern Cinema presents the eighth edition of its program “Count Us In!”. This year’s program focuses on new voices in our cinema that present diverse stories, characters and narrative styles with newly discovered films as well as productions that have spent little or no time at all in theaters. Presenting short films in addition to the selection of feature-length films, the “Count Us In!” program will also introduce audiences to directors, cast members as well as film production teams.

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EDEN (ADEN),2018

Turkey, Germany, France | DCP, Color, 97’ | Turkish

Director: Barış Atay

Cast: Funda Eryiğit, Onur Ünsal, Cemalettin Çekmece

Fleeing the war and famine in their homeland, Marba and Aras have embarked on a difficult journey looking for a new place to live. Hungry and thirsty, they come across a house and knock on its door, hoping to get a night’s rest before moving on, but two armed brothers open the door. Difficult days await the couple who will end up staying much longer than planned at this house where they sought shelter. Set in an indistinct time and place, this allegorical fable is based on many of the ancient legends and explores age-old issues that continue to recur, such as class distinction, the commodification of women, and power struggles. Funda Eryiğit’s performance in the film won her the award for Best Actress at the Golden Boll Film Festival in Adana.




Turkey, Canada, France | DCP, Color, 73’ | Turkish

Director: Burak Çevik

Cast: Eylül Su Sapan, Çağlar Yalçınkaya

The film takes us through the background story of a murder committed in Istanbul’s neighborhood of Ikitelli. In the accompanying voice-over, a man tells us in detail the events that led to his cold-bloodedly murdering his girlfriend’s mother. The film opens with locations such as empty streets, the house where the crime was committed, intercity highways, and the waterfront where the couple who committed the crime first met. All of these settings, accompanied by the voice making the statements at the police station and the information he imparts, create a hair-raising effect. In the second half of the movie, we witness the night when the couple who planned the murder first encountered each other. Based on a true story and including some autobiographical elements, the film goes from present to past, gradually turning the background story of a murder inside out. Çevik’s sophomore feature and second film to premiere at the Berlinale Forum, experiments with a new form that deals with cinema's relationship with space while playing with the boundaries of the genre.



AMİNA, 2019

Turkey | DCP, Color, 70’ | Turkish, French, Wolof

Director: Kıvılcım Akay

Amina is an immigrant Senegalese woman who has been working as a model for a clothing company in Istanbul for seven years because she did not have the means to make a living in her own country. While willing to leave her daughter behind and live in another country so as to take care of her daughter’s needs, Amina faces many challenges in the big city both as an immigrant and because of the color of her skin. But she does not give up and never stops dreaming as she carries on her struggle with determination. In this first feature-length documentary, by a showing us a cross section of Amina’s life, Kıvılcım Akay opens a new window onto what it means to be a black immigrant in Istanbul.




Turkey | DCP, Color, 57’ | Turkish, Hebrew, English

Director: Aylin Kuryel, Fırat Yücel

Heads and Tails follows the journey of human hair sold by suitcase traders in Turkey to wig makers in Israel; from the bargaining that takes place during this trade to the final stage when the hair is made into a wig and reaches its new owner. Coya and Sima moved from Turkey to Israel at a young age and when they found out that the hair available in Turkey was of good quality, they chose this job as their means of livelihood. Forming the backbone of the documentary are the negotiations between the sellers in Turkey and these two women, who have by now become experienced hair traders. Also notable is the way in which the world's current political climate is reflected in the dialogues that take place during these negotiations. The journey from hand to hand of the hair, whose actual source we never see, offers a glimpse into a world about which little is known.




Turkey, Germany, France | DCP, Color, 95’ | Turkish

Director: Serhat Karaaslan

Cast: Berkay Ateş, Saadet Işıl Aksoy, Füsun Demirel

Zakir is a police officer who has recently started working in a prison where his job is to read the letters sent to inmates and to censor them by blacking out any objectionable content. In his spare time the young man attends a creative writing course where they are given an assignment to write a story inspired by a photograph. Zakir’s attention is aroused by a photograph enclosed in one of the letters he checks at work. He decides to write about the attractive yet unhappy-looking woman he sees in the photograph, alongside her husband the convict, and an older man. But soon his curiosity turns into an obsession that takes over his entire life. While drawing attention to state censorship, through the situations Zakir encounters in his private life, the film also foregrounds issues such as individual stuckness, restriction, and silencing.




Turkey, Germany, Bulgaria | DCP, Color, 102’ | Turkish

Director: Ömür Atay

Cast: Yiğit Ege Yazar, Caner Şahin, Gözde Mutluer

Obeying his family’s wishes, Yusuf has helped his older brother Ramazan by setting their sister up for murder. Because he was a minor and would get a reduced sentence, Yusuf has taken the blame and was sent to prison instead of Ramazan. Although his sentence is over and he is released from prison, he is still far from being free in his new life where his family watches his every move. Unable to convince anyone around him, including his mother, that he was not the one to commit the murder, the young man’s despair and remorse, as well as his anger toward his brother keep growing day after day. Following a long career in television and numerous shorts, this first feature-length film by Ömür Atay was screened in competition at Karlovy Vary.




Türkiye, Almanya | DCP, Renkli, 117’ | Türkçe

Director: Ali Aydın

Cast: Birkan Sokullu, Cemre Ebüzziya, Tansu Biçer, Serkan Keskin

Nihal and Hakan are a well-off couple who started off happily married. Shortly after finding out that they will not be able to have children despite all the treatment, Hakan sees Nihal with a man he does not know. When his wife does not come home on the evening of that same day, angry, desperate, and not knowing what to do, Hakan asks the police to help him search for her. In this second feature film, Ali Aydın plays with the chronology of events, altering the viewer’s perception of reality and time. Through the problems that come to the surface during the constant tension between Nihal and Hakan, the director criticizes the dominating patriarchal structure of relationships between men and women.




Turkey | DCP, Color, 105’ | Turkish

Director: Kıvanç Sezer

Cast: Alican Yücesoy, Başak Özcan, Bülent Emrah Parlak

La Belle Indifférenceis the second film of director Kıvanç Sezer’s “housing trilogy” whose first installment My Father’s Wings was featured in a previous Count Us In! program. This time the director focuses on the customer axis of the worker-customer-contractor triangle. Onur and Bahar are a couple who have taken a loan to buy a flat in an upscale neighborhood away from the city center. When Onur is fired from his job the couple’s life turns upside down. While Bahar reacts to the situation with panic, Onur slowly creates for himself an imaginary world and finds himself in absurd situations. Focusing on modern Turkey’s white-collar middle class, the film takes a humorous look at the psychological consequences of economic change on society and the individual.




Turkey | DCP, Color, 73’ | Turkish

Director: Tarık Aktaş

Cast: Ali Yavuz Ilman, Barış Mert Bilgi, Ömer Bora

This debut feature by Tarık Aktaş won the Award for Best Emerging Director at the Locarno Film Festival. The story begins with the protagonist Hay at around the age of seven, when he finds a dead horse. At first, he is afraid of it, but then he starts examining the carcass and tries to understand it. Hay then witnesses the way grownups perceive the horse as valuable when it is alive, but as an object that they need to get rid of as quickly as possible once it is dead. As an adult, Hay cuts his leg during a sacrificial rite, which brings back his childhood memories. After this experience, Hay’s perceptions of life, death, nature, earth, and humans will be transported to a different dimension.



SAF, 2018

Turkey, Germany, Romania | DCP, Color, 102’ | Turkish, Arabic

Director: Ali Vatansever

Cast: Saadet Işıl Aksoy, Erol Afşin, Onur Buldu

Kamil and his wife Remziye are a modest couple living in one of the shanty neighborhoods of the district of Fikirtepe which is undergoing transformation. Kamil has been unemployed for a long time and the couple can barely make ends meet. As their life is about to reach a dead end, Kamil has no choice but to accept a job on a construction site in the next-door neighborhood. He accepts the lower wages given to immigrants and takes the job away from a Syrian refugee who was working illegally. Kamil starts working the night shift while hiding it from those in his neighborhood who oppose urban transformation. Showing us urban regeneration together with Kamil and Remziye’s transformation, Saf is a multilayered film that makes us question many topics including immigration, labor, and morality. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and Ali Vatansever won the Award for Best Film Director at the Bari International Film Festival.




Turkey, Australia | DCP, Color, 88’ | Turkish, English

Director: Köken Ergun

Contemporary artist Köken Ergun was featured in the 2013 Count Us In! program with his documentary short Aşura. His first feature-length documentary Heroes follows people visiting the monuments in Gallipoli/Çanakkale and explores the concepts of national identity, cultural ritual, and “tourism of martyrdom”. The film took a total of three years to complete, following two years of research during which the director joined many Gallipoli tours and spent time with participants and guides. In the film, he brings together the thoughts of tour participants, theatrical reenactments of the Campaign, and the narratives of guides which vary from one group to the next.  




Turkey | DCP, Color, 96’ | Armenian

Director: Rena Lusin Bitmez

In this first feature-length documentary, Rena Lusin Bitmez focuses on the lives of families who have migrated from Armenia to Turkey out of economic necessity. As told through the eyes of four migrant children, the main concern for these families is to ensure that the children’s education is not disrupted despite all the difficult circumstances. Every day, the children attend the school located in the basement of their church, accompanied by mothers who do the teaching. Younger children stay at home with neighbors or grandparents. The film conveys in a sincere and touching manner the everyday lives of the grownups around them who are all tightly connected to each other, their longing for their homeland, and their struggle to make a living.




Turkey | DCP, Color – Black&White, 61’ | Turkish, Armenian, English

Director: Zeynep Güzel

In Come Rain or Shine, the director travels from Turkey to Armenia to map out the history that is embedded in this geography. The only signs of an industry which was once active are rusty pipes and decrepit buildings in this now desolate landscape where the population has likewise decreased. Despite all the difficulties, Ashot and Karin continue to live here. The interviews carried out with them and the poem-like letters by Zeynep Güzel guide the audience. As the director scans the settings with her camera, she is searching for traces of her own family history while also seeking answers to the question “which places, which people, which objects can be the bearer of history?”



YUVA, 2018

Turkey | DCP, Color, 119’ | Turkish

Director: Emre Yeksan

Cast: Kutay Sandıkçı, Eray Cezayirlioğlu, İmren Şengel

In his second feature film, Emre Yeksan focuses on the relationship between Hasan and his brother Veysel who has left his life in the city to live in a forest, in the heart of nature. The forest where the story unfolds is virtually one of the protagonists of the film. One day, the land where Veysel has settled is sold to investors and this man, who has left his previous life behind and taken refuge in his new “home”, is now faced with the threat of eviction. The arrival of his brother Hasan, who tries to convince him to evacuate the land, causes them to confront each other and rediscover what it means to be brothers. Through its immersive sound design and cinematography,Yuva takes the viewer on a magical journey into the universe it creates.




Turkey | DCP, Color, 15’ | No dialogue

Director: Ceylan Özgün Özçelik

Cast: Derya Pınar Ak, Tuğrul Tülek

Ceylan Özgün Özçelik’s Witch Trilogy begins with 13+ a short thriller-drama and continues with a documentary and a final feature-length film that combines fantasy and black comedy. In the short film, we witness a 14 year-old girl’s experiences inside a dark and dingy room with no sense of time and location.





Turkey | HDD, Color, 22’ | Turkish

Director: Burcu Aykar

Cast: Devrim Eylem Şeker, Defne Karagöz, Ayşe Ayça Yeniay

A hot summer during the 1980s. Elif and her older sister Ayşe physically live in the same house but have completely different lives. Elif watches her sister with admiration while Ayşe seems to be mentally far away, in a different world...



Turkey | HDD, Color, 21’ | Turkish

Director: Uğur Bayazıt

Cast: Özcan Bayazıt, Saim Bayazıt, Ömür Bayazıt, Uğur Bayazıt

Bringing together family footage shot with a Super 8mm, A Family Film, situates the mother at the center of the film as its narrator. Portraying the memories of a family living in Istanbul during the 1970s, the film also traces moments long gone and spaces that gets transformed through time.


THE TAIL, 2019

Turkey | DCP, Color, 10’ | Turkish

Director: Yiğit Hepsev

Cast: Fatih Al, Elit Andaç Çam

Ekrem is a middle-aged translator who lives alone. One evening he goes out to take out the trash, just as he does every day, and runs into his neighbor Şevval. The two neighbors strike up a conversation, which seems quite normal and weird at the same time. Ekrem has found a way to deal with his inner voice... The Tail is an adaptation of a short story by the director himself, and also carries references from Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus.



Turkey | DCP, Color, 20’ | Turkish

Director: Damla Kırkalı

Cast: Onur Yalçınkaya, Selen Uçer, Cüneyt Yalaz

The lives of seven people living in a commune inside an old theatre building take on a different turn when a mysterious stranger appears one early morning. The stranger is accepted inside the building with a majority vote, but there are still some members who remain suspicious. The communal order starts to falter and members of the commune start to become agitated. Is the stranger responsible for this agitation?


TAŞ (STONE), 2018

Turkey | DCP, Color, 12’ | Turkish

Director: Alican Yücesoy

Cast: Ata Yılmaz Önal, Görkem Arda Keskin

In a world where everything seems rather familiar, everyone has a stone from the moment they are born and must carry it with them throughout their life. All are obligated to carry their stone until the day they die and even the mere thought of letting go of it is dangerous. The film follows Muzaffer from the moment of his birth. When he grows up, he starts questioning the stone and is met with panic, pressure, and shaming by those around him.





Turkey | DCP, Color, 20’ | Turkish

Director: Arda Çiltepe

Cast: Enes Yurdaün, Seren Şirince, Ariya Toprak

Shot on 16mm, Black Sun won the award for Best International Short Film at Locarno. The film follows a man trying to reach an island on the Aegean to make it to his father’s funeral on time. A sudden storm and heavy rain slow him down while his father’s burial wishes complicate things further.


AH, ASUMAN!,2019

Turkey | DCP, Color, 16’ | Turkish

Director: Ümit Kıvanç

Cast: Settar Tanrıöğen, Halil Babür

Ahmet, a young law student, is traveling by bus one night and wakes up during the ride to find that the bus is moving too slowly. He goes up to the driver to complain and asks him why they are trailing behind a truck. There is a picture of a woman on the back of the truck. Pointing at it, Fahri the driver says, “I know that woman”, and blows Ahmet’s mind with their passionate love story.


AVARYA, 2018

Turkey | DCP, Color, 20’ | Turkish

Director: Gökalp Gönen

Seslendirenler: Sermet Yeşil, Damla Çay

A man goes on a journey into space in pursuit of locating a new planet where life is possible. However he is trapped inside the spaceship because the robot in charge doesn’t find any of the planets suitable. As a last resort, the man tries the Earth one last time, but that doesn’t work either. Thus the search continues…



Turkey | DCP, Color, 20’ | Turkish

Director: Ozan Yoleri

Cast: Ahsen Eroğlu, Sena Konak

The story of two girls living in a coastal Aegean town. Aylin is a lively girl who has just graduated from high school while her neighbor Irmak is just reaching puberty. As Aylin dreams of moving to the big city with her boyfriend, Irmak, who is in awe of her realizes that she has uncontrollable feelings at the thought of Aylin actually leaving.



Turkey | DCP, Color, 19’ | Turkish

Director: Arda Ekşigil

Cast: Mehmet Özgür, Cem Zeynel Kılıç, Sencar Sağdıç

Inside a small neighborhood barber, three old-time friends are talking about a wide range of topics from politics to economy, the inadequacy of culture and arts in Turkey, monotheistic religions in general and their impact on the world order. The three men, each taking themselves extremely seriously, continuously compete with one another on familiar subjects.