In a conversation with TRT World, Sezer talks about a range of subjects--from the beginning of his film journey to his ambition of experimenting three different genres in one trilogy.
Having just returned from a busy festival run, second-time director Kivanc Sezer’s La Belle Indifference hit the Turkish cinemas on November 29. The film told the story of Onur (Alican Yucesoy), who suffers from the titular condition of la belle indifference, which leaves him unconcerned about anything even after he loses his job as a manager in a pharmaceutical company. His marriage with Bahar (Basak Ozcan) also starts to be shaken.
Sezer is largely considered as one of the most promising directors of the new generation in Turkish cinema, with many comparing his cinema to the late Yılmaz Guney, the acclaimed Turkish filmmaker who won the Palme d’Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival with his film Yol (The Road), as well as the iconic English director Ken Loach. Sezer’s filmmaking journey started when his short films were featured in Cannes Short Film Corner, followed by his debut feature My Father's Wings (2016).
La Belle Indifference, produced by last year’s Sundance Film Festival alumni Tolga Karacelik, picked up where My Father’s Wings left off, with the construction of a newly-built site in Istanbul’s suburbs, which gave a start to Sezer’s loosely-related trilogy called The Housing Trilogy. In his own words, Sezer telIs the human stories on this small functioning system.
This weekend saw Twitter support for Sezer. His audience and colleagues protested over the film’s screen quota reduction from 100 to four. Many artists offered to gift audience members their work in exchange of a photo of La Belle Indifference’s ticket.
TRT World spoke to Sezer about his career’s humble beginnings and his idealistic ambition of experimenting three different genres in one trilogy.
TRT World: You have had quite an interesting journey from bioengineering to filmmaking. What drew you to filmmaking?
KIVANC SEZER: I studied bioengineering in Turkey, but then in my university days, I started to be involved in cinema and theatre. I made a lot of short films to discover cinema. Then I went to Italy and my life changed when I started to study film editing there. When I came back to Turkey, I worked in the industry for a while. But I always wanted to shoot my own films, this was what I wanted to do with my life.
Both of your films tell a local story but you have received international recognition. Did you expect that?
KS: Let’s say yes. As a filmmaker, you always have some expectations for your film. There’s a saying like that, for a poet he can know what he wants to write but doesn’t know what he writes. For me, I have all these questions and doubts and it works when if the story is going in the direction I wanted etc. But when both films premiered in Karlovy Vary Film Festival Main Competition, they were good signs of a film crossing the boundaries of the country and reaching to the hearts of an international audience. So it was good for us to premiere there and we had some good criticism about the film. So then we came to Adana Film Festival and got seven prizes out of 18. It was also a very good sign that the festival audience and the jury liked the film and were interested in the issues my films deal with.
As you proceed from a promising debut to your follow-up feature, did anything change for you as a director and your ways? Was there ever a second film syndrome?
KS: Yes. There is a second film syndrome. It is scary. You put your all energy, life experience and hope to the first film. The start of a career is important, but the continuity of it is even harder. So, I was not sure if it would be a good film. My only advantage was the self-confidence about finishing a film. I was sure that the film will be done anyway, but not sure what kind of a film it would be. Still, I am not sure of it. The rest was my effort to serve the script and do my best as a director.
You mentioned many times that The Housing Trilogy will explore a variety of genres. This started with the realistic drama of My Father's Wings, and continued with the absurd nature of La Belle Indifference. For the third installment, with the working title of Heaven in a Heartless World, you hinted the audience to expect a thriller or even a horror film. Do you plan to continue this after the trilogy ends?
KS: I don’t know. I am counting on my intuition and always try to reflect a story that matters. I am aware that the style of the film is somehow unexpected for the audience who watched Wings. Maybe it is my style to make unexpected films? I am mostly inspired by different films yet most of them deal with social issues and all of them are on a quest to highlight different aspects of humanity. Genres are just cinematic forms and turn films into familiar experiences for the audience. I have only a few things to say what I will do after the trilogy. Let’s hope for surprising films.