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Fantastic Fest 2015: Cem Kaya’s “Remake, Remix, Rip-Off” delves into Turkish Hollywood

“Welcome to Turkey. It’s home to Yesilcam, the Turkish Hollywood where, in the late ‘70s, dreams were built on nothing more than a dime. Both a loving tribute to the burgeoning cinema of this young country and a trip into history, REMAKE, REMIX, RIP-OFF brings you the most outlandish story you’ve never heard.”

Can you imagine Spiderman as a villain? Or a mix of Superman and Batman to become Super Batman? As outlandish as this sounds, Turkish cinema went there and more.

Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest
Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest

At the beginning of the Cem Kaya’s documentary, we are told by several major players in Turkish cinema—directors, actors, and producers—that there are only about 31-34 stories in the world. That’s it. What they did was take from each of those stories and intermix them with endings, middles or beginnings from the others to make films. Kaya’s delve into the Turkish “Hollywood” of Yesilcam was definitely eye-opening and hilarious.

The montages of all the same romantic lines, action sequences, death scenes were perfect. Although, it might seem at first glance and by the title of this documentary that Turkish cinema only stole or remade films from Hollywood, this is not true as we see in the documentary. Yes, there are obvious copyright laws being broken and plagiarism being made, but what I found to be very interesting is that they are Turkish. Turkish, as in, all these parodies, plagiarism, remakes, rip-off films as we see in the documentary are in the Turkish perspective and local culture.

Instead of simply remaking by Hollywood’s standards, these films were adapted for another country, and I really thought the filmmakers of these times were very creative with what they had to use.

Irfan Atasoy an action star said, “In the West, Scripts are not changed, However, we get new ideas during shooting.” Sure, in Hollywood, scripts change all the time, but major script changes usually spell disaster for films and end up bombing at the box office. In Turkish cinema, this was a necessity and the films thrived.

Kaya’s exploration into the history of the Turkish cinema is fascinating. We are shown clips from many different films, that at first glance would make you laugh and joke about the production quality and storylines, but learning about the context in which these films were made, gives one an appreciation of the films that turned out.

This should also give us a rethink to why we pay Hollywood actors millions of dollars when we use stunt doubles to perform their stunts for them. As we see in the documentary, Turkish actors did it all. The directors said, “We were asking regular actors to jump out of windows. Just jump.” The actors said, “We hit the real glass with our fists“ or “The dynamite didn’t detonate. The director told me to check it.”

Photo courtesy of Fantasia Festival
Photo courtesy of Fantasia Festival

If you want to talk innovative, Hollywood should learn from the Turkish innovation that was happening during these times to help save some of those big budget blockbusters. The coolest thing I saw in this documentary was the innovation that the filmmakers had to make during the making of all these films. Dollies were made out scrap material, and instead of rails, there were soaps on the bottom of the legs and water was poured through so it would move with ease! Talk about not letting the conditions stop you from getting the job done.

As you can imagine, all aspects of the production had to be innovative and soundtracks were borrowed from Hollywood. The black-and-white film was colored and billed as a new color film from Japan!

As some of the film scholars and bloggers mentioned in this documentary, Turkish cinema broke classic cinema types by mixing superheroes or making the classic hero a villain. The freedom they had during that lax time was amazing. Even with the lack of resources they had, they created hundreds of films a year on this style of filmmaking.

Cem Kaya also went astray towards the end of the documentary. It almost feels like two different documentaries by the end of the film, because he dives into the political and working conditions of Turkish cinema. Kaya almost lost me at the end, and it was very disappointing to go from a fun-loving look into this crazy cinema world that is unthinkable in the West to a very serious tone on the politics and uprising.

Overall, this documentary is a great, fresh look into Turkish cinema, but just be warned it does get a little dark by the end. But I definitely recommend going to go watch it!

“Remake, Remix, Rip-Off” screening:

Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar theatre

Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 11 a.m.

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