İlksen Başarır’s award-winning debut film “Love in another language” (Başka Dilde Aşk) invites us to the world of the deaf through its plain but exciting depiction of the romance between Onur, a young deaf and mute man who works as a librarian and Zeynep, a call-center employee. The film shows the difficulties the couple encounter in their relationship with one another and the difficulties they face with the world outside them.
“Love in another language” is a love story. However, it offers more than that. The communication difficulties Onur and Zeynep have is just a microcosm of a malady we suffer from in modern Turkey, at a more universal level, in contemporary world: lack of communication.
“Can we communicate without speaking?” is the thesis of the film declared in its early moments. We all speak with one another in our daily lives. But does this necessarily mean that we communicate? While answering this and demonstrating the difficulties we encounter, İlksen Basarir’s film manages to gain its universal appeal.
The film’s use of locations supports its thesis and themes. The call center where Zeynep works and the library Onur works at are equally important. The former is quite noisy and stressful. The emphasis on Zeynep and her friends’ talk to the customers on the phone is nothing but a metaphorical demonstration of not only how we speak with each other but also how we should do so. In contrast to the call center, the library is quiet; “far from the madding crowd”. However, there are cases which clearly indicate that people still miscommunicate within this setting as well.
Since the film mainly focuses on the themes of communication and miscommunication, there are many images of such communication: mobile phones, computers, headphones, microphones, pen and paper, television, videos, blackboards… there is so much available for us so that we can communicate. But do we? Can we?
İlksen Başarır, the director of the film, wrote the screenplay with Mert Fırat, the leading actor of “Love in another language”. The film is never a cliché and flows successfully. And there is consensus that the performance of its leading cast is remarkable: Mert Fırat has won two awards in Turkey; Ankara International Film Festival’s the best leading actor award and Yeşilçam Awards 2010, both in March 2010. Like Mert Fırat, Saadet Işıl Aksoy has won two awards: Ankara International Film Festival 2010 The Best Leading Actress Award and The 4th International Bursa Silk Road Film Festival National Golden Karagöz Feature Film Competition The Best Leading Actress Award. In the same festival, the director İlksen Basarir also received the National Golden Karagöz Feature Film Competition FIPRESCI Award. In addition, Hayk Kirakosyan received the best cinematography award in Ankara International Film Festival 2010.
“Love in another language” is a good example of modern Turkish cinema. Its strength comes from its honesty. It is a good study of how we easily “other” those who are different from us. The film’s DVD has English and Turkish subtitles and a narrative track for the blind and visually impaired.
The First of Its Kind
Ali Nihat Eken: For our readers who would like to discover Turkish cinema, can you please first tell us about yourself as a film director?
İlksen Başarır: I studied journalism at university. However, while working as an intern, I decided that I would not work as a journalist. I had a friend working at a production company who said they needed someone at work. I had an interview and started working there. A weekend later I went to a film set and realized that film making was what I wished to get involved in. For ten years, I worked as an assistant director for commercials and feature films.
Eken: You are the director of “Love in another language”. Also you co-wrote the script with Mert Fırat. Can you tell us what encouraged you to work on this story?
Başarır: Mert told me a story he wanted to write about and this story eventually became the backbone of the film. I really liked it. I believed it would make a good film and in a few days we made up our mind to write the script together. Writing it up took us 16 months. First we worked on Onur and Zeynep’s story and then came up with the supporting characters and the sub-stories.
Eken: Did you change the script while shooting the film?
Başarır: The final script was the shooting script. During the rehearsals with the actors, we made some slight changes in the dialogues but we did not change it afterwards, while shooting the film.
Başarır: While we were writing the script, it was not definite that I would shoot the film and Mert would be in the cast. However, after having done all the work on the script and the research for the film, I wanted Mert to act Onur in the story. And it was Mert who persuaded me to be the director of the film. Soon we ended up selecting the cast for the film which included everyone I wanted to work with.
Eken: We all know that making a film is a meticulous job in Turkey. What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?
Başarır: No doubt the major problem was the budget. We made this film on our own. We had no fellow producers who would contribute to such an investment. We received some support from the Ministry of Culture. And I am happy to say that over the years we made very good friends in this sector. They all believed in this film and did their best to help make it come true. We had many budget-related problems. We shot the film in 19 days.
Eken: In your depiction of the individuals repressed by the economic system, were there any directors who inspired you? For example, Ken Loach?
Başarır: I can’t say there is, especially not in this respect… but of course, Ken Loach is a director whose work I follow.
Eken: What do you think “Love in another language” has achieved for the Turkish cinema?
Başarır: In Turkey, “Love in another language” is the first Turkish film subtitled in Turkish and I, therefore, believe that this film has accomplished an important mission in its contribution to the social integration of the impaired. We have at least taken the initial step towards this cause… In terms of genre, “Love in another language” has become the first of its kind. It is neither a commercial film nor an art-house movie. And this is, I think, where we have been successful. Although shown in a few cinemas, the film’s box office performance was good with it being shown in all film festivals and receiving awards.
Eken: When you look at Turkey through the relationship between Zeynep and Onur, what do you see? Are you optimistic?
Başarır: I can’t say I am. By making this film, I have entered the world of the deaf and the mute and learned a lot about them. Turkey is really backwards; we have no tolerance; dislike the ones who are different from us. Our film has a statement: “We are against any kind of othering.” And we want this to be adopted everywhere.”
Eken: How do you promote “Love in another language” outside Turkey? What reactions have you received? How can film enthusiasts access your film abroad?
Başarır: We haven’t done much promotional work abroad. We introduced the film in the Berlin Film Market where it was positively received… many were interested in the film. However, there are no specific agreements yet. We might release the DVD abroad.
Eken: Thanks so much, İlksen Başarır.