Kundura Cinema is special amongst independent cinemas of Istanbul with historic preservation and tasteful restoration alongside the well curated film program.
Beykoz Kundura used to manufacture leather and shoes in the past. Kundura Cinema is located in the boiler room, which was regarded as the heart of the factory. This industrial complex with a history of two thousand years, that has been operating since the Ottoman times, has been restorated to give space for arts and culture.
A few weeks ago I published the story of the independent cinema in Berlin, Wolf Kino. This week, I met Buse Yıldırım, culture and arts director of Kundura Cinema at a video interview. Getting ready for our digital meeting, I learned about her producer and director side and Berlin connection.
In the second half of the interview, we talk about her short film, which is an artistic interpretation of her academic study, Ghostly.
Istanbul and Berlin are within one and other in Ghostly
Translated from Turkish by Nazlı Çiğdem Sağdıç Pilcz .
And a nice note: During the COVID-19 pandemic they prepared a 10 short films selection named "A Ride From Within". You could watch the films from Beykos Kundura website .
Independent Cinemas of Istanbul
S: There is only a handful of independent cinemas in Istanbul. How do you evaluate this?
B: During the last couple of years cinema culture and the way cinemas and the audiences communicate have immensely changed. This period began with digitalization and now followed by the crisis we are currently living. This is a global issue with local dynamics. All around the world, the number of independent cinemas are diminishing day by day and the existing ones are barely holding up. The way people interrelate with the city is changing. Cinemas are affected by the direction of the public administration. Instead of connecting with streets, we get trapped in commercial and closed spaces like the shopping malls.
Just in the very beginning of the pandemic, it was very sad to learn Kadıköy Rexx Cinema is closing down. As part of a generation that used to hang out on the streets in front of it, wait in the ticket queues, live Kadıköy out during the high school years, I am very sad. What is even more upsetting is that we haven’t been sensitive enough to this closure.
S: Frankly, I still can not believe that it is closed down. I mean, on the one hand I don’t want to believe and on the other hand, I also find it sad that there was not enough reaction to it. That’s why our interview is important.
B: Fundamentally, if we put the Covid-19 aside, how the audience consume audio-visual content has changed and maybe independent cinemas have to keep up with it. Even the establishment process of Kundura Cinema had an appeal addressed to a very nostalgic motivation, it also got nourished from that; open air cinema and our policy of not showing current movies...
Besides, in Turkey, the audio-visual archives are already not open to the public. Unfortunately, the film library culture has disappeared or partly sank into oblivion in 1980. [After the coup in Turkey] As far as I know,
As far as I know, Kadıköy has such a project that is in construction period now.
Of course, it is a completely different discussion whether the cinemas are dead or not. This quarantine period reminded us all again that we human beings are social animals. I don’t think people can do without sharing emotions. People go to cinemas and they sure will continue to do so.
All in all, cinema is a culture in itself and how you form it while this culture is transforming itself is what is important. As the communication instruments have changed, if the audience now would like to manage the content themselves on the digital platforms, cinemas should maybe transform the culture of cinema accordingly.
S: So, within this context how will Kundura Cinema evolve? For example, you are showing a selection of ten short movies on your website, will there be more?
B: We are planning to continue to be present on digital platforms. Issues such as movie rights or different budgets, unavoidably, push us to experiment different models. Currently we are in the process of exploring and evaluating the alternative options.
Voyage to Kundura
Kundura Cinema was opened in the Autumn of 2018. In the beginning we wanted to convert this action of “going to a cinema” into a little experience. Going to the cinema to a place historically and culturally important and watching a non-mainstream film, in a part of the city where maybe you were born and raised but have never been before. What kind of a voyage will that film create for that person? That was one of our first curation themes. In other words “Voyage to Kundura”. Kundura has a nature, which makes people question or even change their relationship with the city. So, the story of Kundura’s transformation starts and continues within this voyage.
Drinking Gazoz* at Open Air Cinemas in Istanbul
S: Both of my parents lived in Eyüp. My grandmother told me memories from open air cinema nights and how that was a part of Eyüp’s culture. Now, when I compare today’s Eyüp with that time, there is also another transformation story. This nostalgic story shows us how the city evolved. It is nice to think of the story of Kundura Cinema, as a space located far from the center of the city but still interacting with it. * Gazoz is a sweet fizzy drink, “soda pop”.
B: This factory historically had a cinema in it. The nostalgia does not only come from being a part of the urban culture, but it is also enriched by the nostalgia in the memory of the space itself.
For example, we still keep the projector that was used to show movies when Kundura was a factory. That is an Iskra, made in Yugoslavia, imported to Turkey in the 50s. Now it’s in the foyer area of Kundura Cinema...
We have an oral history project named Kundura Memory. We started the Project to collect some objects and memories from the social life at the factory.
The film screenings at the factory are also important because all of the Beykoz community were invited to join. The same experience as your grandmother had in Eyüp, two movies in a row, drinking gazoz... Well, the audience was not in convertibles as in what everybody is keen on talking nowadays, people were sitting on wooden chairs...
S: Do not forget to mention cracking the seeds please.
B: Yes, I mean that was a different culture. I guess now is the time to find a way to integrate that cultural transformation. That became unavoidable with Covid-19.
S: Lastly, I would like to speak about your connection to Berlin. You completed a master’s degree in Berlin, made a research and interpreted it to a short movie named Ghostly . Please tell me about your research and how you converted it into a movie.
“New Wave in Berlin”
B: I was doing my master’s degree in the field of Visual and Media Anthropology in Freie Universität and my second year was research oriented.
Upon my arrival to Berlin, I joined the Facebook Group named New Wave in Berlin. I started to check the messages, user profiles in the group, and started to follow the arguments that bursted out from time to time and comments. I was especially curious to understand how the old generation of immigrants, who went with the guest worker programme in Kreuzberg, were relating to the new generation.
My research was also related to the integration process. Of course, in the origin of all lies the identity issues that occurred after the reunification of Germany. But according to my observations, the old generation of Turkish people who came as guest workers could not connect with the new generation; even the taxi drivers did not believe that I was Turkish. I found these identity conflicts very interesting.
S: I was surprised by similar situations while I was in Berlin. For instance, I hear two women speaking in Turkish who are working in the supermarket. Then I ask them something in Turkish, but they respond to me in German. I realized it is because they were shying away from using the language. Maybe she was thinking her Turkish was different than mine.
They Don’t Speak Turkish with You As You are a Foreigner to Them
B: Guest workers who made a living in Germany and returned to Turkey became part of a different interclass social mobility. This has been interpreted in many different ways in Turkey. Mostly the new immigration wave also interacts with German-Turks with the same perception. On the other hand, they don’t speak Turkish with you because you are a foreigner to them. It is possible that in many ways, like the way you dress up, they see you too much of a Westerner or German.
Our identity is a major product of the westernization process of the modern nation-state structuring. As a Westernized Turkish it is actually not easy to go there and earn a place in the society. The image of Europe that you construct in your mind in Turkey gets torn down and again somehow you are caught in the middle.
The outcome of the research was really interesting. There were not many academic studies on this subject at that time. Besides, generally journalists work on this subject and of course journalists are always quicker than anthropologists.
Ghostly: I Both Exist and I don’t
B: Visual anthropology aims to transfer a research to a visual product, the result of this transfer was a ten-minute-long film. I had to put aesthetic value on the film in a way that would not shake the trust between me and the research participants. When I analyzed the interviews, I realized the emotional burden. One of the participants told me that she felt like a ghost. That’s why I called the movie Ghostly I both exist and I don’t. I speak German but the person in front of me acts as if I don’t. I both belong to the city and I do not.
The visual texture of the city was important as an emotion of settlement in the aesthetic language of the film.
Together with Berlin we grounded on a symbolic Istanbul as the Western side of Turkey. This is the state of staying in between reflections and layers, both the process of staying in between the East and West of Turkey and the feeling of going there but not being able to feel at home.
After all “Ghostly” turned into more of an experimental movie.
“Ghostly” is on an academic journey for now, soon the academic participants of European Association of Social Anthropologists: EASA Conference in Portugal will have a chance to watch it. I think following this, there could be other screening possibilities at ethnographic film festivals. I also want to tell the story of the qualified immigrants from Turkey, who are trying to find a place in German society with a feature-length film.
S: Sounds fantastic. I would love to watch it.