Talking about the national cinema and film criticism in one’s country to an outside audience has always felt impossible to me. Even though I accept a total subjectivity in my words, I doubt the truth of my own subjectivity, too. This becomes more problematic when it is the global “East,” which Turkey is a part of, that needs to be explained. The hazards of orientalist and self-orientalist tendencies in both film criticism and filmmaking and the burden of the political “realities” and the desperate endeavor to represent those realities “properly” with the limited financial resources are the ongoing curses and limitations that makes the creative industry timid and withdrawn. A scene from a recent film from Turkey called Why Can’t I Be Tarkovsky? (2014) by Murat Düzgünoğlu teases out this dilemma Turkish cinema faces in one of its scenes. A filmmaker who has to shoot commercial films for a living tries to get funding from the European Film Foundation for his screenplay. His girlfriend advises him to shoot something about the “West and East relations, cultural amalgamation or refugees” in order to get funding and to be realistic about his own ideas. There is an ongoing clash between the expectations from the movies or criticism of movies in Turkey and the actual creative purposes, or agenda in the film industry in Turkey.
Film criticism does not have any financial support from the Turkish government, and unfortunately, it also doesn’t have a wide audience. Lack of financial support and interest has lead film critics to establish their own independent magazines. This opened up space for more free thought and an inclusive policy regarding Kurdish, Armenian, queer and feminist cinema, and therefore politicized the content, too. I consider film criticism as a crucial philosophical inquiry into the perception and interpretation of movies in their context. Especially in Turkey, which has been in a political crisis since the beginning of 2016 including a lot of violence toward filmmakers, academics, journalists, students, and politicians, it has become a place where there is an epistemological transition in intellectual discussions and daily conversations. Everything is politicized in chaos. This politicization, which may be considered a way of coping with the political trauma, is pregnant with dangerous political consequences, a widening polarization. The perception of the movies, especially the movies that are necessarily politicized in the post-2010 period is crucial because the proper representation and interpretation of the contemporary atmosphere has the possibility to bring some kind of balance, a moment of breathing, a space for contemplation. Experiencing and observing the artistic inquisitions, and trying to understand the historical moment through cinematic moments are what made me a film critic.