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DIRECTORS IN FOCUS
Cinematic Dreams: Five Films by Ömer Kavur

Virtually unknown in the United States, Ömer Kavur is Turkey’s most celebrated contemporary filmmaker. Born in 1944, raised in Istanbul, and educated in Paris at the Cinémathèque Française (on Pabst, Lang, and especially Antonioni), Kavur has made documentaries, television commercials, and—beginning in 1974—twelve feature films. Time and mystery are at the heart of all these works, for although Kavur renders the world itself in precise and realistic terms, by the end of each film we are left with enigmas, secrets, and unanswered questions about the nature of reality and illusion and the motivations behind his characters’ choices. Most importantly, we are left in the presence of ultimate questions about the human condition.

"Cinematic Dreams: Five Films by Ömer Kavur" was organized by Anthology Film Archives, New York, with support from the American Turkish Society.


January 5 (Friday) 6:30 pm
January 6 (Saturday) 9 pm

Night Journey (Gece Yolculugu)

Directed by Ömer Kavur
Turkey 1987, 35mm, color, 98 min.
With Aytac Arman, Macit Koper, Zuhal Olcay
Turkish with English subtitles

In this enigmatic work, a director settles in a ghost town to rewrite his script, and the audience enters into the mystical realm of his past and imagination. Kavur’s film is a seamless collage of thought, memory, and landscape reminiscent of Giorgio de Chirico’s psychic terrains. By the film’s ambiguous end we can not help wondering how much Night Journey is about Kavur himself and, like Fellini in 8 1/2 before him, how much he is embracing it all.

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March 25 (Sunday) 7 pm
March 30 (Friday) 9:15 pm

The Secret Face (Gizli Yuz)

Directed by Ömer Kavur
Turkey 1991, 35mm, color, 115 min.
With Zuhal Olcay, Fikret Kuskan, Savas Yurttas
Turkish with English subtitles

Written by one of Turkey’s most prominent novelists, Orhan Pamuk, The Secret Face is a modern variant on the medieval grail quest of Parsifal. In the basic model, a young man abandons his home, is invited to an initiation cere-mony, neglects to ask the proper question, and then wanders in the wilderness for years until he earns a second chance and finally attains the mystical experience of the grail. Kavur and Pamuk return to the original non-Christian model for this story, while setting it in the late twentieth century. The director orchestrates this fantastic, visionary tale with utterly convincing actors, a minimal score that often returns to the sounds of mourning and pealing bells, and a landscape of cobbled streets and towering trees, present at every crucial turning point as if witnesses from another time.

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March 26 (Monday) 7 pm

Usef and Kenan (Yusef Ile Kenan)

Directed by Ömer Kavur
Turkey 1979, 35mm, color, 80 min.
With Cem Davran, Tamer Celiker, Yalcin Avsar
Turkish with English subtitles

Yusef and Kenan is rooted in one of Istanbul’s continuing social problems—the thousands of street children, ranging in age from six or seven upward, who have migrated into this metropolis of twelve million. Some of these children are in flight from abusive parents while others, with their parents’ approval, seek an alternative to rural poverty. In the back streets of the city they form new "families" focused on begging or crime or mutual assistance. Kavur’s film follows the story of two brothers who witness the murder of their father and then flee to the city seeking a relative they ultimately can not find. Kavur employs an economy of expression that unobtrusively engages us in the story of how the brothers set out to acquire a family of their own in the abandoned cars and shacks of the city.


March 27 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Motherland Hotel (Anayurt Oteli)

Directed by Ömer Kavur
Turkey 1987, 35mm, color, 110 min.
With Macit Koper, Serra Yilmaz, Orhan Cagman
Turkish with English subtitles

Set in a mansion in Istanbul that has been converted into a fourteen-room hotel, Kavur’s film focuses on the manager of the establishment, the tormented Zebercet. What appears to be a straightforward narrative turns inward, however, at its midpoint, compelling us to reconsider the meaning of all that has come before in the narrative: it becomes clear that the woman we have seen in the film’s first shot is merely the memory of a real visitor—or perhaps a phantom—that haunts the hotel’s troubled proprietor.

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March 28 (Wednesday) 7 pm
March 30 (Friday) 7 pm

The Journey on the Hour Hand (Akrebin Yolcukugu)

Directed by Ömer Kavur
Turkey 1997, 35mm, color, 118 min.
With Mehmet Aslantug, Sahika Tekand, Tuncel Kurtiz
Turkish with English subtitles

The Journey on the Hour Hand is set in a landscape out of time, where cause and effect can be disconnected and time itself has paused, or is in replay. Organized like a mystery story, the film focuses on a clock mender named Kerem who sets out on a journey to find a distant clock tower in need of repair. According to Kavur, Kerem is a vagabond who "returns the way Ulysses does." But there is much more going on in this tale, including the cyclical actions of its protagonists, who revisit each other and themselves. As Kavur notes, "Our traditional story telling resembles Latin American literature; it has metaphysical, mystical, and surrealistic elements that throw a veil over the story—the truth is hidden behind."

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