Wednesday, 7 December 2011

WOW factor: Diaspora Armenian making gay-themed Turkish film, receiving prize for it in Turkey

I asked award winning cinematographer Norayr Kasper to comment on the uniqueness of the combination of Diaspora Armenian making Turkish film on a gay-themed subject and winning the prize for it in Turkey.

Says Norayr Kasper: “Naturally, there are connotations regarding the reality of me working there; this is a complex question to discuss. Ultimately, this award is about my work as a cinematographer, not as an Armenian. And above all else, this is about artists coming together to work on an important human rights issue, freedom of expression, and making a difference through our collaboration, which transcends borders and identity.”

Zenne Dancer has been inspired by the true story of Ahmet Yildiz, who was murdered for being gay at the age 26 by his own father in 2008.

Below are extract from articles and press releases re Zenne Dancer.

[Official website Facebook page]
The Hollywood Reporter

Gay-themed 'Zenne Dancer' Wins Awards at Antalya Film Fest
The drama, from directors M.Caner Alper and Mehmet Binay, deals with homosexuals in the Turkish military.

ANTALYA – The 48th edition of the International Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival ended this weekend with a surprising four awards for M.Caner Alper and Mehmet Binay’s Zenne Dancer, a first-time feature that deals with homosexuals in and outside the Turkish military. While the film was almost universally dismissed by international critics and festival guests, its hot-button topic led to a 10-minute standing ovation at its premiere screening and an all-female jury honoring it as Best First Film, along with awards for Best Cinematography (Norayr Casper), Best Supporting Actor (Erkan Avci) and Best Supporting Actress (Tilbe Saran). [...]

'Zenne Dancer' stirs controversy on taboo subject

The award-winning Turkish feature “Zenne” (Zenne Dancer) will hit screens in mid-January. For the handful of people that have seen advanced screenings of the movie, however, it is already promising to be yet another litmus test of mainstream Turkish attitudes toward a prominent taboo: homosexuality.

The film’s controversial nature arises from its blunt tackling of homosexuality in its relation to traditions, family, state and the military. Co-directed by M. Caner Alper and Mehmet Binay, the film won five Golden Oranges at the recent Golden Orange Film Festival, Turkey’s most prestigious film event. “Zenne” took home the Best Film Award, the Turkish Cinema Critics Guild’s Best Debut Feature Award, as well as honors for cinematography and best supporting actor and actress.

“Zenne” is based on the true story of Ahmet Yıldız, a young gay man who was allegedly gunned down by his father in July 2008 after coming out. Ahmet’s father has yet to be tried for the alleged murder. [...]

Press release via Hetq Online:

Zenne Dancer, a groundbreaking Turkish indie feature film, won five awards at the largest film festival in Turkey. Norayr Kasper, a Canadian cinematographer of Armenian descent, was awarded Best Cinematography. The film also received the Best Film Award by the Turkish Cinema Critics Guild, Best First Film, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Supporting Actor.

Zenne Dancer sets Ahmet Yildiz’s tragedy against a backdrop of rigid patriarchy and the clash between traditional values and urban modernity. It is the first Turkish feature film to expose the degrading treatment of homosexuals in the Turkish military.  Ahmet Yildiz was 26 when he was gunned down outside his home. Ahmet’s father, who is being tried in absentia for allegedly murdering his son, has been evading justice for the past three years.

“I am honored to receive this recognition of my work by the Golden Orange jury,” says Norayr Kasper, who is the cinematographer of over 30 films, including Atom Egoyan’s CALENDAR. “Mehmet and Caner involved me from the beginning stages of this project and invited me to contribute with a specific style toward constructing a distinct visual narrative,” continues Kasper, “their sensibilities, dedication to excellence, and attention to detail greatly impressed me. I was also drawn to the subject matter, and its relevance in raising awareness of this important issue.”

Kasper and Binay met in 2008 at the Golden Apricot Film Festival in Armenia. Binay’s documentary film “Whispering Memories,” which tells the story of converted Armenians as a result of the Armenian Genocide, was screened at the 5th Annual Golden Apricot Film Festival.

The awards ceremony was broadcasted nationwide and in Europe on NTV News Channel. Among online comments, award-winning novelist Elif Safak wrote about Zenne Dancer, “a groundbreaking, captivating Turkish movie that’ll speak to our consciousness.”
It is worth noting that Harutyun Khachatryan’s documentary “Border” won Best Film at the Golden Orange Film Festival in 2009.

Co-director Mehmet Binay accepted the award on Mr. Kasper’s behalf and thanked him for “painting this film as a tableau.”

The Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival congratulates Norayr Kasper for his award.

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