Rasha Salti, writer, curator, and film programmer based in Beirut

Schermata 2015-11-23 alle 12.33.58Rasha Salti is a writer, curator, and film programmer based in Beirut (Lebanon) but working internationally. She joined the team of international programmers for the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011. She curated projects for the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2011 she co-curated the 10th Sharjah Biennial (with Suzanne Cotter and Haig Aivazian).

 

 

 


A conversation with Rasha Salti about the Independent Film Scene in Turkey and on “Rebel Yell: A New Generation of Turkish Women Filmmakers”
    • Part 1/2

    • Part 2/2

    In the first part of the conversation, Rasha Salti refers to the independent film scene in Turkey. “The authors’ films do not fit the main stream, box office, logic”. In Turkey many are the initiatives that support the emergence of the authors’ cinema such as the Mithat Alam Film Center at the Boğaziçi University and Altyazi, a film magazine that has focused on the independent and radical film scene, in collaboration with the Mithat Alam Film Center (Boğaziçi University). There is also the International Women’s Film Festival called Festival on Wheels that is organized by women for women, and is dedicated to all women who are violated, silenced and ignored. The festival travels to several Turkish cities, and the forthcoming edition will run from Nov. 29th through December 10th. “Film has been integral to the cultural life of Turkey and, unlike the contemporary art scene, it is not a privilege to be part of it, it is much more democratic.”
    Rasha Salti mentions also the International Istanbul Film Festival and the International Independent Film Festival (in Istanbul) that presents experimental cinema, artists films and works that straddle the world of film and video art. “Istanbul shows politically radical films and this is, for example, the festival for the defense of gay and lesbians rights. Being international, makes it open to the global debate”. Finally she refers to the “Documentary film festival” called Doc Istanbul.
    “From this rich universe of experimentation, it is not a surprise that women are fighting for the means and resources, to finally make the films they have been wanting to make. Theirs is often a very powerful cinema that does not shy away from social taboos such as incest, polygamy, or political taboos such as the  Armenian genocides, the issue of the war in South East Turkey against the Kurdish population, the cruel and deeply contested gentrification of Istanbul and so and so forth.”
    What about the artistic and creative scene in your country? “I live here and I am from here but I do not work here. But I like mentioning the brilliant work of some friends of mine. For example the experimental music festival called Irtijal. It is one of the two events in the Arab world dedicated to the experimental music. They have done an amazing job of building an audience. Right now there is also a festival of contemporary dance called Bipod which offers a rich international program of performances, debates, lectures and workshops. This year the program is expected to be one of the best since Beirut will welcome internationally acclaimed contemporary dance companies. The nice thing about it is that it travels in the region, to Jordan and Palestine.”
    Then Rasha Salti presents her program “Rebel Yell: A New Generation of Turkish Women Filmmakers” that will be presented at the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) Bell Lightbox from August 22nd through the 29th. “Men on the Bridge” is about the informal economy of commerce on one of the bridges that links the European to the Asian side of Istanbul. The film tells stories of three young men working on and around this bridge in central Istanbul, an unlicensed flower seller, a taxi driver and a traffic policeman. “This film is about the proletariat that has not protections, living from day to day. It is about the informal economy –  i.e. in the shadow of legality – they are not selling illegal substances, but they are not allowed to sell. The two men’s relationship to the policeman is what’s interesting.” “Filmmaker Asli Özge decided to make a documentary film about a universe that is often overlooked and is practically invisible even though it is very prominent. You see it but never spend time thinking about it. It just doesn’t feature in mainstream discussions or representation of Istanbul today. As she prepare for the documentary, she realized that she could not endanger the policeman’s career by filming him, so  she decided to make a fiction film and hired an actor to play the role. The two other protagonists play themselves. The result is something that lies between documentary and fiction which is not a common form in the alternative and auteur cinema.”
    Another film in the series is “Merry-Go-Round” (2010), directed by İlksen Başarır, which tells the story of a family dealing with incest. “Incest is really very rarely dealt with in the Turkish cinema, the issue is regarded as a taboo.”
    We have to keep in mind that the AKP party has won the municipal election in Istanbul and is the ruling party at the moment. It is very socially conservative, thus to make a film about incest is a very daring choice.”
    There will also be a documentary film called “Beginnings” by Somnur Vardar. “Somnur decided to film a group of Turkish and Armenian young people as they were visiting villages where Armenians lived before the genocide. The group of youths visited these sites of memory, of traumatic and contested memory. As fourth generation of their descendants, they spent time talking together about the genocide, the trauma and denial. It is a very painful and complicated issue. And there are small initiatives by NGOs that are daring to broach the subject. It is very courageous to make a film about these small initiatives because otherwise they would just remain known to a very small number of people. When you make a film you give it another dimension, it gives it visibility.”

    In the second and last part of the conversation, Salti talks about her upcoming program Rebel Yell: A New Generation of Turkish Women Filmmakers that will be presented at the TIFF Bell Lightbox from August 22nd through the 29th.
    Then she refers to the independent film scene in Turkey. “The authors’ films do not fit the main stream, box office, logic”. In Turkey many are the initiatives that support the emergence of the authors’ cinema such as the Mithat Alam Film Center at the Boğaziçi University and Altyazi, a film magazine that has focused on the independent and radical film scene, in collaboration with the Mithat Alam Film Center (Boğaziçi University).
    There is also the International Women’s Film Festival called Festival on Wheels that is organized by women for women, and is dedicated to all women who are violated, silenced and ignored. The festival travels to several Turkish cities, and the forthcoming edition will run from Nov. 29th through December 10th, 2013.
    “Film has been integral to the cultural life of Turkey and, unlike the contemporary art scene, it is not a privilege to be part of it, it is much more democratic.”
    Rasha Salti mentions also the International Istanbul Film Festival and the International Independent Film Festival (in Istanbul) that presents experimental cinema, artists films and works that straddle the world of film and video art. “If Istanbul shows politically radical films, this is for example the festival for the defense of gay and lesbians rights. Being international, makes it open to the global debate”. Finally she refers to the Documentary Film Festival called Doc Istanbul.
    “From this rich universe of experimentation, it is not a surprise that women are fighting for the means and resources, to finally make the films they have been wanting to make. Theirs is often a very powerful cinema that does not shy away from social taboos such as incest, polygamy, or the political taboos such as the  Armenian genocides, the issue of the war in South East Turkey against the Kurdish population, the cruel and deeply contested gentrification of Istanbul and so and so forth.”
    Then Rasha Salti presents her program “Rebel Yell: A New Generation of Turkish Women Filmmakers” that will be presented at the TIFF Bell Lightbox from August 22nd through the 29th.
    Men on the Bridge is about the informal economy of commerce on one of the bridges that links the European to the Asian side of Istanbul. The film tells stories of three young men working on and around this bridge in central Istanbul, an unlicensed flower seller, a taxi driver and a traffic policeman. “This film is about the proletariat that has not protections, living from day to day. It is about the informal economy – i.e. in the shadow of legality – they are not selling illegal substances, but they are not allowed to sell. The two men’s relationship to the policeman is what’s interesting. “
    “Filmmaker Asli Özge decided to make a documentary film about a universe that is often overlooked and is practically invisible even though it is very prominent. You see it but never spend time thinking about it. It just doesn’t feature in mainstream discussions or representation of Istanbul today. As she prepare for the documentary, she realized that she could not endanger the policeman’s career by filming him, so  she decided to make a fiction film and hired an actor to play the role. The two other protagonists play themselves. The result is something that lies between documentary and fiction which is not a common form in the alternative and auteur cinema.“
    Another film in the series is Merry-Go-Round (2010), directed by İlksen Başarır, which tells the story of a family dealing with incest. “Incest is really very rarely dealt with in the Turkish cinema, the issue is regarded as a taboo.”
    “We have to keep in mind that the AKP party has won the municipal election in Istanbul and is the ruling party at the moment. It is very socially conservative, thus to make a film about incest is a very daring choice.”
    There will also be a documentary film called “Beginnings” by Somnur Vardar. “Somnur decided to film a group of Turkish and Armenian young people as they were visiting villages where Armenians lived before the genocide. The group of youths visited these sites of memory, of traumatic and contested memory. As fourth generation of their descendants, they spent time talking together about the genocide, the trauma and denial. It is a very painful and complicated issue. And there are small initiatives by NGOs that are daring to broach the subject. It is very courageous to make a film about these small initiatives because otherwise they would just remain known to a very small number of people. When you make a film you give it another dimension, it gives it visibility.”
    What about the artistic and creative scene in your country? “I live here and I am from here but I do not work here. But I like mentioning the brilliant work of some friends of mine. For example the experimental music festival called Irtijal. It is one of the two events in the Arab world dedicated to the experimental music. They have done an amazing job of building an audience. Right now there is also a festival of contemporary dance called Bipod which offers a rich international program of performances, debates, lectures and workshops. This year the program is expected to be one of the best since Beirut will welcome internationally acclaimed contemporary for dance companies. The nice thing about it is that it travels in the region, to Jordan and Palestine.”

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