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The Curse of a Short-Term Existence

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02/08/2018 – The all mighty homo-sapiens seem destined to live in cycles of repetition. They aren’t infinite – on average, they exist for about 80 years. During this lifespan, it’s very hard for most of them to make long term decisions, knowing that they won’t be around to witness the outcome. Homo-sapiens aren’t that humble; we gain emotional satisfaction and pride from the results of our actions.

We think, act, and seek short-term.

Humans have normalised and conformed over millennia, to the idea of having a family and continuing the blood line. Therefore, we find ourselves in a bubble that requires immediate attention, emotion and priority. This is now the real world, and its safety is of upmost importance. As the world continues to struggle along, for many, it’s all about strengthening the exterior of the bubble.

This bubble eventually becomes the old generation, and whom the new younglings look down on, just how the old look down on the young. The youth now look and act different, even speak strangely, whilst the inhabitants of the bubble see everything as a conspiracy to bring down what they have worked so hard to put together (It’s never really considered that putting a safe haven together shouldn’t be so hard, and be made much easier by our governments, who on the contrary, have fields of money trees).

In any case, a threat to this system is what the state and government fears the most. The best way for authorities to counter this is with basic human emotions. This will, in most cases, win over factual arguments or scientific research. A bus with an ad on the side stating a slogan of millions of pounds going to the NHS is more effective than newspaper articles saying this is not true. A politician, loudly and confidently stating what he is thinking, no matter how insensitive and horrifying, is more powerful and rewarding than someone else calmly observing the situation and stating the case of the opposite.

This is why governments and authorities speak a lot about change and vision, but in reality, especially in the attempt to seek re-election or to keep the people on their side, resort to more immediate and emotional responses to problems that arise. It’s all about the short-term, and how to preserve their existence during this time period.

This can be traced back to the history we have been taught in school. We were told that 1945 is where the modern world begins. Following two World Wars, we said ‘Never Again’. The United Nations is established and all is jolly good. This has always been the ultimate simplification. Maybe it is what most of us wanted to hear as a way to move on, but in reality, wars and atrocities never ended.

1946 birthed the first sign of the Cold War, with the USA and the Soviet Union on the brink of war over Iran. The establishment of the state of Israel, a safe haven for Jews following their horrifying near-extinction, brought upon the ongoing persecution of the Palestinians. The Korea War was around the corner, along with the Greek civil war. Vietnam was boiling. West vs. East. Right or the Left. Democracy and Communism. Us versus them. Establishing an opposite to maintain a superior ground. The means justify the end, no matter what it takes…

gaza-protester

It does not take much to get lost in the countless articles detailing the amount of wars and death this has resulted in since the Second World War. Both the USA and The Soviet Union, now Russia, continue to install bases of influence around the world in order to keep their narrative going. Oppression somehow still continues on, no matter how much freedom to the people they are offering.

From the age of 6, I grew up in Northern Cyprus, on an island so small, its division is still relatively unknown to the outsider. During my childhood and early teens, we were pumped with propaganda, both by the state and the ‘motherland’ of Turkey. We were the good guys, always struggling for existence, whilst the enemy now to the south, were the barbarians, always on the look out for blood. Lucky for me, I was able to widen my gaze to learn about differing perspectives, and the grey area in between the black and white. In war, there are no innocents. In an elongated struggle, the cause defies morality.

People are very easily duped in to the idea of waging an ‘honourable’ war. It’s so easy to look at a group of refugees and say ‘let them drown’, or not to care about yet another bomb going off in the Middle East. It’s scary how people get swept up in a nationalistic speech by a leader and suddenly forget, the homeless, the poor, the corruption, the oppression, caused by the same leader. As we all seek comfort, even for a second, we close our eyes and imagine the utopia that is promised us can be a reality. Most of us give in.

1051748_1_1130-Trump-May_standard

We can easily step by step follow the results of the 2003 Iraq War, a war that started based on non-evidence, to the present day:
– A ruined Iraq
– Thousands dead
– Civil war
– A ruined Syria
– Thousands dead
– Millions homeless
– The refugee crisis
– The rise and fall of ISIS
– Extremists bombings abroad
– Conservative politicians continuing a war rhetoric
– Liberals struggling to find a way through the hate
– EU Referendum/Brexit
– The Trump effect
– Far Right governments in Europe
– Less support for human rights, arts, culture and equality
– More emphasis on fear, racism and intolerance
– The further division of people within a country

With the rise of the extreme far-right and fascism now clear as ever, the narrative to conserve, to protect and to see an outsider as a threat is at the forefront. To see yourself as a superior being. To suddenly fear the end of the White Race. To look at a past life through the prism of nostalgia, and wish for its glorified return. Suddenly, racist businessman, hypocritical politicians, murdering dictators, affluent King’s and Queen’s, and all the greedy Excellencies, represent the people, or so they say. Newspapers word the headings to articles in such a way, that you start thinking Tommy Robinson is a hero of the people, and not a dangerous, violent criminal.

war peace

The impact of hate and wars fought due to carelessness and ignorance goes on for tens and hundreds of years. Generations are still traumatised by wars they were never in; for children and the grandchildren of the Holocaust survivors, and other atrocities since, it becomes inherited into their, and our very fabric. This may harden us and we shut down. For some, it offers an opportunity to keep a consistent higher morale ground to never let it happen again.

The struggle with short-term will continue on.

Images were sourced online, and can be removed upon request.

Cog Life

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30/07/2018 – Rarely do I write what I perceive to be poetry. This lil’ thing was hanging around in my notes for a while; on a fresh glance, it seemed kinda beautiful. I’ve been meaning to write a ‘meaningful’ blog post but procastination has been winning the battle. So, until brewing is complete, this will have to suffice.

Looking down the barrel of life
What greets you, eh o’mighty?
Everlasting grace; never-ending smite,
or something not yet bespoken?

Who are we to crave, to utter a single word?
Look down, mind your business – move along.
Yet, here we are, in need of need,
yet has it even befallen?

Judge me no more, let me be
or set me back to naught
Disappear I will, to the eternal never-after,
and shan’t lust till called.

Who are we to crave, to think a thought or two
Look down, mind your business – go your way.
Yet, here we are, in need of soul,
yet, will we ever be…

awoken.

My Top-10 of 2017

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16/12/2017 – A strong quality of mainstream, independent and auteur works made 2017 a great year for film and television! As I spent a lot of time in the cinema, as well as consuming an unhealthy amount of television, I decided to put together my Top-10 of 2017 that contains both visual mediums. Looking through my choices below, it puts a smile on my face to see a common theme that binds many: Gender/race representation and masculinity.

First of all, my list of Runners up in no particular order:

shapewater

  • The Shape of Water: A magical and surprisingly adult fairytale, that is touching, gory, sexy and scary all at the same time!
  • The Wound: A coming-of-age story from rural South Africa that speaks a lot about the traditionalist community, sexuality and the frustration that seeps from within.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: The best comedy of the year and also one of the best from the superhero genre in a long while.
  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Pure original in the way it depicts the darkness within each individual and the wider society. Riveting.

menashe

  • Menashe: A humble, sweet and emotional tale of a father and son in a small hasidic community, that in a way, functions as a docu-drama.
  • The Venerable W: A horrifying insight into the world of hate preaching that has caused thousands to flee their lands in Myanmar.
  • Nathan for You Season 4: There is nothing like it on television right now, and it’s a must watch for anyone that loves strange and awkward humour. It also has one of the most surprising last episodes of any series, ever.

Before the best, I have to mention the most two disappointments: Sadly, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. 20 minutes of good scenes amongst 2 hours of absolute average TV episode filler was not what I expected at all. The worst of the year for me was Brawl in Cell Block 99. The most overrated film by far, it felt like watching an unfinished cut. An utter bore with no pace, no conflict and worst of all, it used the excuse of being an ode to exploitation films by just being utter lazy in its execution. 

With that out the way, time for my Top 10!

fantasticwoman

10- A Fantastic Woman: I would ideally remove the two superfluous fantasy sequences, but otherwise, it’s unique and daring. It has such a powerhouse performance by trans actress Daniela Vega, that it remains magnifying from beginning to end.

9- Strong Island: A devastating and heart breaking documentary that analyses the death of the brother of the director. One of the many films on my list that deals with the racial divide and racism in the USA.

8- Makala: The human endurance is at the heart of this documentary set in Congo. So simple in its premise, it’s that simplicity that makes it utterly powerful.

7- Get Out: This film took me by surprise. It showed with such ease that you can be a mainstream release that’s funny and scary, but also deal with racism in a totally original way!

6- Call Me By Your Name: Despite lacking the depth of God’s Own Country, and disappointing in its exposition-filled finale, the film masterfully hits the emotional heights and dramatic cues. It’s brave and honest. The acting of Timothée Chalamet is out of this world.

5- Blade Runner 2049: It’s a miracle that a sequel to Blade Runner can be this good. There are some lazy storytelling shortcuts during its running time, but who cares when the visuals, the sound, the music and the atmosphere is this hypnotising. A rare case of a sequel living up to the original.

godsowncountry

4- God’s Own Country: Another great example of gay romance that really has hit its stride this year. Clearly the best love story of the year. It feels real and it earns it.

3- Better Call Saul Season 3: The best television series out now, and at its best this season. There are so many iconic sequences that play out with no dialogue, the tension at times can be unbearable and the drama is heightened to its maximum. Who would have thought it could go head to head, and even excel the quality shown by Breaking Bad?

2- The Florida Project : No question or doubt, it’s the best film of the year. Out of all the films on this list, it’s the one that stuck with me the most and the one I would in a heartbeat go and watch again. It’s been a long time since I’ve witnessed childhood innocence portrayed with such nuance and such joy. The ending is also something special.

1- The Vietnam War: The 10 part series about this particular war is not only a detailed analysis of the American struggle, but an examination of humanity over the course of history and a look at the mistakes we make repeatedly. Despite the heavy subject matter, it was exhilarating on another level. The biggest praise I can give this series, is that it made me understand America and what makes it tick.

vietnamwar

Whitewashing 101

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04/04/2017 – Until yesterday, it hadn’t crossed my mind that I would be writing about whitewashing. After a prod from a friend on Facebook, I realised how frustrated and desperate I was to talk to someone about this. The internet is noise pollution – bigotry and ignorance run amok. It can be really tough to hear your own thoughts and conscience most of the time. Which is where the danger lies.

The topic of whitewashing fits into the ongoing discourse on equality and ethics. But let’s keep it simple by using a Q&A structure. This is the only way I can get my thoughts across and make them as easy to comprehend as possible. As my interest is in film and cinema, I’m going to focus on whitewashing in this art form, but this can be seen in many other situations or industries as well.

QUESTION: What is the line between whitewashing and fiction? If fiction is imaginary, can’t we imagine a white person in any role?

We can.

QUESTION: So if we can imagine, why can’t we actually portray them on the big screen without being white shamed?

You can, but you shouldn’t.

QUESTION: Why not?

The cinema industry and our focus point, Hollywood, is built on pumping out expensive productions. It’s a business. It’s all about money. There are directors, writers and actors that work within this system that do care about art as a form but – this is a huge but – they are still working within the system and therefore, shape the way we think. Once you have the power to shape people’s minds, thoughts, imagination and social conscience, you automatically have the responsibility to be ‘responsible’.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

Let me elaborate. For years, races and nationalities of all kind have been part of Hollywood productions. Focusing on acting, we’ve seen everyone on the big screen, all colours, all religions, and all accents. How many of them have been the heroes though? To date, the Hollywood system that is all about churning out glorious and escapist entertainment, has utilised non-whites as cannon fodder and stereotypical shortcuts to further profit. They have the ability to promote their films on all media forms, therefore entering our lives on a daily basis. Once you have this amount of power, you have an ethical duty to yourself and to the people of the world to ensure a somewhat balance between what is on offer.

QUESTION: What balance is this you talk about?

Well, let’s start from the mainly white people we see on our screens. They kill the bad guys (usually non-white), save the world (mostly from non-whites), and get the girl (probably much younger than her saviour). This sends out a certain message to our synapses and psyche, that this is ‘right’ and ‘how things should be’. Imagine being subjected to this for over 100 years. It becomes the norm, we unconsciously accept it as normal.

It’s the same thing when females aren’t offered the same level of work as men or why we have stereotypical comic relief roles for certain nationalities with ‘funny’ accents. The more you are subjected, your perception of how the world operates shifts as well.

QUESTION: Okay, but they are pushing this agenda too much, to the extent that it’s everywhere. You can’t just make every famous character a female or every action hero an Asian.

You can.

QUESTION: You can’t! Can you?

Of course you can! We are all human beings, with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. Our main concern in life, for the majority of us, is to get a job, get married, have kids and ignore our mortality for as long as possible.

If we’ve had years and years of dominance of white characters, why can’t we now have the opposite? How else are we going to achieve equality if we don’t understand or emphasise with how much the other half has been oppressed, and removed from the ‘norm’? Of course the media will write controversial articles about white-shaming. They have also been under the illusion of Hollywood and mass media. We fear what we don’t know or don’t understand. In a world where we scroll easily past mass murder stories in Syria and Iraq, it’s no surprise that we get agitated when ethics and morality gets thrown in our face. We feel guilty. Our sense of truth is being questioned. The natural instinct is to fight back with what we know and believe in.

ghost-in-the-shell

The norm versus the other

To promote and fight the allegations of whitewashing prior to the release of the US remake of ‘Ghost in the Shell’, there were street interviews with the Japanese public in Japan. They were shown footage of Scarlett Johansson kicking arse, and then asked if they believe she was a good choice.

QUESTION: Did they see it as whitewashing?

Nope. They actually liked her.

QUESTION: Then, what’s the big deal? If they can state this for an original Japanese production, why can’t we cast an American actress?

Remember how I mentioned that seeing white people (mainly men) on our screens, shapes the way we think and affects the way we perceive reality? Hollywood is a global phenomenon – it doesn’t only affect the US but has global implications. Its world view therefore is the aforementioned norm, we unconsciously accept it as normal.

So how can we expect the public of Japan to make an independent choice, without complying with years of external stimuli?

We can’t.

QUESTION: So… what then?

ANSWER: The only way to counter-balance years of work by a huge money-churning industry, is to start doing the opposite, to start demanding the opposite, and to start asking for more of the ‘other’. The ‘other’ being everything but the ‘norm’.

what if?

what if?

More opportunities have to be given to other nationalities, races, religions, and they should be our heroes and love interests. Females can also save the day and choose who they want to end up with. Yes, Scarlet Johansson is a great actress and she can pull off this role. But many other Asian actresses can as well! The same goes for Finn Jones and Iron Fist. Why not cast a non-white actor, and be part of change, a change that will play a small but important role in hopefully one day providing equal opportunities to everyone?

So, when you have the urge to complain ‘that’s white-shaming’ upon reading another media story about casting an Asian actor, stop and take a deep breath.

Ask yourself, ‘why not?’

The 11 year old mature me

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30/09/16 – When I was 11, I remember receiving the best compliment a young boy could get. When this boy, who was extra thin, wore glasses and had braces on his teeth, heard this compliment, he knew he was doing something right. He automatically became better than any of the other boys of the neighbourhood. Different than any of the other boys from any other school. The compliment was simply this: “You are mature, unlike the others”. Coming from someone I liked (liked in that special way a boy likes a girl way out of his league), this meant the world!

Prior to that, while I was still in primary school, all my classmates wanted to be older, drive a car, ride a motorbike. But I clearly remember my preference of not to. Life was perfect, I was happy. I’m a kid. I won’t get these years back. Why change it? Mature thinking, right?

Then came the early 20’s. I was sure of my mature self, of my clearly defined character and of my ‘all-understanding’ personality. So it’s interesting that during my 20’s, I changed the most. I don’t mean one slowly evolving character change. I mean multiple variations over the course of 10 years, where I kept on thinking I’ve reached the ‘definite’ me. I’ve told friends “I now know who I am” on multiple occasions. What I haven’t apparently learned is that surprises are always around the corner and those surprises usually suck big time. Unexpected events shock your core and zap you back into perspective of how little you know yourself.

I guess being an adult and all, it’s normal at this stage for these changes to increase. You now have responsibilities, the future becomes unavoidable and the sway of the reproductive organ gains the power to temporarily blind you, and common sense simply takes unpaid leave. At age 30, the questions have now changed to “will I know myself?” and “Is there a definite me, and if so, when is it going to show up?”. To ramp up the philosophical debate, “Is there a need for a ‘definite’ self?”. Can’t we, constantly renew ourselves, adapting to each scenario, keeping it fresh as they say, living life one experience at a time?

Personally, I love a structure. I love a well-planned life style. I cherish being part of a team. I adore a duo working in unison with each other. As I analyse this defined structure which also defined me, I once again found myself at this seemingly-inevitable loop of change. Like an innocent, unwanted new born baby, I was at a doorstep of a stranger and scared of who was on the other side.

“Knock knock”
“Who’s there”
“Waaaaaaaaaaaa”
“Fuck…”

Lately, I’ve had the chance to think, a lot. Analysing and over-analysing structure and deconstructing the notion of ‘self’. Reading a book like ‘The Dice Man’ perfectly encapsulates the sad dilemma of how to live a life without soul-crushing structure. It makes me realise, as human beings, how fragile we actually are. And somehow, I ended up thinking about that compliment I received at age 11. “You are mature, unlike the others”. Was that the only time I was really, truly, mature? Who was I?

maturity

storytelling and connecting

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18/10/15 – Autumn has arrived. Its golden aura, surrounding most of us with a feeling of being down and miserable. Not me. I never have been a season person, not one of those “I need the sun” addicts. I guess 16 years of Cyprus does that to a person. I’ve had my fair share, so I can deal with moody weather for the rest of my life.

Title screen

Title screen

What I’m trying to say is that, weather never has dictated my mood. Working three days a week and the other four being devoted to myself is what makes me feel good! Part-time bitches!

You see, I’m at the stage of editing my film. Just watching the progress of it getting shorter yet more concise, and therefore becoming a more coherent and watchable piece of work, is a gratifying experience. Only three months ago, I had just completed the production of ‘Weekend’. A small cast and crew worked endlessly to film my script to the best of their capabilities. It’s a very weird feeling to return back to normalcy after such an extreme schedule of concentration and long hours of production. But it’s done, it’s really really done.

still from 'Weekend'

still from ‘Weekend’

‘Weekend’ is a film that uses the cypriot landscape not just for aesthetics. It’s a land of tradition but also a land of ever-going change. Therefore I believe that international audiences, if given the opportunity, will feel certain familiar aspects to their own lives as well. But in the end, who knows if anyone will really connect with the story or appreciate the nuances that we hope they, the audience will get? Or maybe, there isn’t anything to get? Art is subjective, some will find meaning where others will find a blank canvas. Some will interpret a blank canvas according to their own life experience and fill it with philosophical and psychological subtext. I can only hope to reach hearts and minds that are willing to go along with me on this journey. Liking or disliking is secondary compared to connecting; once you connect, a discussion can be held on the film itself. That’s what I hope to achieve.

still from 'Weekend'

still from ‘Weekend’

‘Weekend’ coming to life – Part two

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14 shot1

14. EXT.HASAN’S HOUSE-BACK GARDEN.DAY

FATMA(60) is kneeled down, watering the vegetables with a
hose pipe. She turns her head as she realises someone is
standing behind her and sees Hasan looking at her. Fatma,
slightly hunched, stands up and wipes her wet hands on her
clothes before walking towards Hasan.14 shot2

14 shot3
FATMA
Welcome, my son.

Fatma holds Hasan’s cheeks and kisses them, then embraces him.

FATMA
You really came.

HASAN
I did mother.

*storyboards courtesy of Alasdair Bayne, storyboard artist on ‘Haftasonu’ (Weekend)

‘Weekend’ coming to life

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10 shot1
10. EXT.HASAN’S HOUSE.DAY

The car parks in front of the house. They both get out.
Hasan grabs his bag from the boot. They hug.

IRFAN
I’ll see you tomorrow then.

Hasan nods. Irfan gets in the car and drives off. Hasan
turns his head to the house in front of him. A white
walled bungalow with visible signs of restoration made
over the years with a small garden and patio at the front.
On the side, there is a small dirt path of the driveway
leading to the garage. Hasan lifts the squeaky handle of
the gate and enters.

10 shot2

11. EXT.HASAN’S HOUSE-PATIO.DAY

An old WOODEN CHAIR is on the concrete part of the patio.
Hasan looks at it, then walks past it towards the open
front door.

11

*storyboards courtesy of Alasdair Bayne, storyboard artist on ‘Haftasonu’ (Weekend)

Identifying the stain

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26/10/14 – I have to say, I was hesitant at first. I had already did my fair share of travelling in the past 9 months and took some unpaid time off from my day job so I wasn’t jumping with joy with excitement when I received the email saying I had been accepted to attend a screenwriting workshop in Lithuania. It took me some time but in the end, I decided to go. ‘Weekend’, my short film written to be shot in Cyprus had been selected on the basis of its synopsis. As it’s been my passion project since I conceived of it back in 2010 and following failed attempts to shoot in 2012 and 2013, I didn’t have much to lose. Well besides the tuition fee.

I was very happy with the script which I had written 10 drafts of, the most I have ever written for any script. All I wanted to attempt to change was taking out the role of the children. The narrative had elements of abuse which I knew were gonna be hard to achieve on a island like Cyprus. It’s still a sore subject that pre-production came to an abrupt stop due to parents not wanting their children to be a part of a project that talks about this kind of a sensitive subject.

My acreditation card

My acreditation card

So once I reached Lithuania and the small resort town of Druskininkai, it was hard to hear from the tutors that I would need to do a lot of more changes than just that – the core of the film would need a major overhaul. It took me a day or two before I got used to the idea that I would need to open my mind to the various feedback that I was getting. “Make it more personal” and “Write what you know” were the two points that were repeated many times. This can be hard especially when you are so passionate and protective of something you believe you know the best – your idea.

Druskininkai

Druskininkai

After day two, I managed to think of it as an alternative version and start writing a synopsis around this new universe. Same characters, similar structure but a more real and grounded approach. By the time I reached day five which was the final day, I had completely removed all the child roles and reshaped the core relationship of a father and son into something more relatable and definitely more Cypriot. It became the definitive version.

hanging out

hanging out

You see, I’ve never really made a proper film in Cyprus. Actually, I’ve only ever directed one short which I can kinda show to anyone else. But this one has always been very clear in my head. Not in the sense of narrative but in feeling and mood. I want to tell the story of the people of Cyprus. I want to talk about the generation gap, the different ideologies, the pressure of growing up and becoming an adult, not living in the shadow of someone and the plain fear of “where do I belong?”. Identity is the key word in this short script. “What does someone do if they can’t identify themselves in a familiar environment?”

Participants of the workshop

Participants of the workshop

During our lifetime, we see change all around us. Friends appear and disappear, family members come and go, some die. Sometimes we don’t realise the changes around us and sometimes we hope that things will change. But there are moments when you know that no matter what happens, nothing will change. Some stains can’t be removed. Hmm, maybe I should put that on the poster? 🙂

So I returned to London, inspired and ready to get back to writing. I thank all the great writers and directors, both the tutors Jan Fleischer and Angeli Macfarlane and the organisers of InScript for creating this environment. You gave me hope at the most perfect time.

T