Cinema speaks out within each country’s culture even if it is perceived to be an international language. All remarkable movements in the film industry in Turkey were affected by its own culture. The Turkish film industry was western surrounded and not able to change its fate until the 1950s. More films were produced in 1952 than in all previous years combined. During the ‘60s, the Turkish film industry became one of the biggest film producers in the world with its internal-based movies.
The industry, which produced almost 300 films annually until the 1970s, became known as Yeşilçam. Yeşilçam Street in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul, where many actors, directors and crewmembers were based, gave its name to the Turkish film industry.
Leading directors, Ömer Lütfi Akad, Osman Fahir Seden, Atıf Yılmaz, Memduh Ün, Metin Erksan, Halit Refiğ and many others produced unforgettable movies. Turkey’s cultural history was given voice by those who created an enormous archive in the industry.
The effect of television was beginning to be felt in the ‘70s and Yeşilçam had started to loose its charm even if though it had produced remarkable movies. Cheap budget erotic movies or comedies were not the blood that the Yeşilçam was looking for. According to many cinema critics, the industry’s rebirth began with Yavuz Turgul’s Eşkiya (The Bandit), which was released in 1996. After the Eşkiya, the appearance of movies one after another was a signal of another era in the Turkish film industry.
The new period of Yeşilçam was reborn from TV, which aided in ending a glorious cinema period. TV stars and celebrities turned their faces to the cinema and those who appeared in the cinema were able to bring their fans into the theaters. This new era also proved that investing in cinema could also be profitable for producers.
Nowadays, beside internationally recognized directors such as Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Zeki Demirkubuz, Serdar Akar, Semih Kaplanoğlu, Yeşim Ustaoğlu, Reha Erdem and Özcan Alper, a new generation has given a breath of fresh air to the industry. In fact, the new breed of cinema that seems so far away from Yeşilçam understandings is in fact raised from the ashes of Yeşilçam.
While the Turkish cinema industry continues to produce films like its contemporaries in the rest of world, Yeşilçam is recognized as a romantic period more than a metonym. The Yeşilçam period now appears in festivals, exhibitions and performances to remind us of Yeşilçam’s remarkable glory.
One of the homages to Yeşilçam is known as the Yeşilçam Awards. The awards were launched in 2008 by the Turkish Foundation of Cinema and Audiovisual Culture, TÜRSAK, in a bid to support Turkey’s cinema industry.
The 4th Yeşilçam Awards presented by TÜRSAK and the Beyoglu Municipality, took place in Istanbul between 21-28 of March this year. During the week, a concert of soundtracks from the Yeşilçam period was held and exhibitions were opened. Classic Turkish films such as the 1989 drama “Karılar Koğuşu” (Women’s Ward), starring Hülya Koçyiğit, Ediz Hun’s 1969 drama “Son Mektup” (Last Letter) and “Suçsuz Firari” (The Innocent Fugitive), the drama that starred by Cüneyt Arkın in 1966, met picture goers.
Though the reign of the classic Yeşilçam period has ended, people still seek the romance that encompassed the original band of people who devoted their lives to creating an iconic and unforgettable cinema movement.