Some primary examples of this are Yılmaz Erdoğan, who is known for giving roles to actors from his home city, and director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who has a tendency to choose his close friends and relatives over famous actors to perform in his films. But taking a quick glance at some of the more recent Turkish films, we also see other famous directors and producers reserving roles for relatives.
Throughout the filming of “Ejder Kapanı,” director Uğur Yücel, also known for his works “Yazı Tura” and “Hayatımın Kadınsın,” was accompanied by his son, Can Yücel, a cinema student from Bilgi University who assisted his father in this latest work.
Another example of this is the film “Son İstasyon,” starring Levent Kırca and directed by Kırca’s son, Oğulcan Kırca. Oğulcan Kırca took his first steps in the world of Turkish cinema with the 2001 film “Son,” which he assisted in directing. He later directed the TV series “Tek Celse” and “Olacak O Kadar.” Levent Kırca played the lead role in all of these projects.
But this family business trend is not limited to father-son cooperation. When it comes to Turkey’s record-breaking Recep İvedik film series, Togan Gökbakar, the brother of the film’s star, Şahan Gökbakar, sat in the director’s seat. Though he first made his name as a director with some short films, Togan Gökbakar always showed an interest in working with his older brother. And in fact, the wildly popular Recep İvedik film series has made Togan just as famous as his brother.
‘No one wastes money on Can’
Both Uğur Yücel and Derya Alabora Yücel expect much from their son, Can. Alabora, however, does note that Uğur Yücel has made no attempt to turn over any of his fame to their son. Noting that cooperation between relatives or friends does not really work in the art world, Alabora says: “Can works as an assistant alongside his father. To be a director requires film experience and an aesthetic perspective. After all, no one is going to squander their millions on a Can who has been made a director by his mother and father. We believe in his talent.” As for Uğur Yücel, he was able to experience the comfort of knowing that while he was in front of the camera, his son Can was sitting in the director’s chair.
Theater and TV actor Levent Kırca helped his son start out in directing not by granting him jobs as a director, but seeing that his son, Oğulcan, was involved with some of the behind-the-scenes work, such as decoration, drawing curtains and even carrying pictures. Oğulcan Kırca insists people should drop their preconceived notions about these sorts of arrangements, noting, “When fathers and their sons, or other close relatives, work together, I believe it’s an advantage, in that it takes them less time to understand each other.”
Problems with directors turning over roles to relatives
Famed director Orhan Oğuz is someone who perceives in all this a trend wherein well-known directors are using their power and influence to boost members of their families. As Oğuz sees it, these sorts of relationships wind up damaging the quality of Turkish cinema. Oğuz insists only experience and hard work can make a good director and adds that the practice of giving one’s relatives roles in films, or allowing one’s relatives to work behind the camera, does not suit the world of Turkish cinema.
Screenwriter Ali Murat Güven is one person involved in the Turkish film world who sees directors wanting to work with their own family members as quite normal. Güven notes that this is a practice often seen in the West. “Both Francis Ford Coppola and Dario Argento had their daughters play roles in some of their films. I think there are really much more important problems waiting to be addressed in the Turkish cinema world. I do not choose to criticize those who work with their relatives.” As for cinema critic Mehmet Açar, he believes relatives cooperating on film sets ultimately helps boost the quality of the work. He asserts that directors need to work with the people and in a style that makes them most comfortable.