Having celebrated the Turkish soap opera and the literary work of Orhan Pamuk, Cairo is now opening up to Turkish Cinema.
In the Cairo Film Festival, which closes tonight, there was one Turkish film in the official contest: “Ask Your Heart”.
There were, however, another eight films showing outside the competition: “Dragon Trap”, “Brought by the Sea”, “Kosmos”, “Dark Cloud”, “Black and White”, “In Darkness”, “Love Bitter” and “The Crossing”.
“It is interesting; it is not like the (Hollywood) productions, but it is interesting,” said Nadia, a 30-year-old as she was finding her seat to watch “Love Bitter”.
Nadia had already watched “Dark Cloud”. “It made me think if Egypt could maybe one day be like Turkey — an open, or more open society where people can be either religious or not. After all, Turkey is an Islamic country,” she added.
Nadia wouldn’t expect Turkish films to be commercially successful, however, if screened in Egypt. She judges that the stories and acting might be viewed as too daring for an increasingly conservative society, while the style of production might not be compatible with Egyptian taste, which largely follows the US film industry.
“Also we don’t know their actors and actresses. We know Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie, but those names we don’t even know,” she said referring to Turkish actors and actresses.
Metlem Cumbul, who is a star of Turkish cinema, agrees. In Cairo as a member of the jury of the Festival, Cumbul was not expecting Egyptian audiences to enthuse about the nine Turkish films showing.
“I think our movies a more European in taste and style and I am not sure that European films are very popular in Egypt,” she observed. Cumbul, however, appreciates Egyptian and Arab interest in Turkish soap operas, most of which follow the detail of the lives of large families.
“We are part European and part Middle Eastern; there is a part about us that attracts Europeans, and that a part that is appealing to the rest of the Middle East,” she told Ahram Online.
The Turkish actresses insisted that she is “hopeful about Turkish cinema” and the advancements it could make. She notes that the volume of movie production in Turkey is reaching 70 films per year, as opposed to 10 movies annually in the early 1990s, and with wider expansion could come a more diversified audience.
Speaking from her Cairo hotel overlooking the Nile, Cumbul added that the Turkish film industry could gain much from, and offer in return to, the Egyptian and Arab film industry on the basis of shared history and cultural heritage.
Cumbul herself is inspired by the character of Cleopatra and is in rehearsal for a theatre performance based on the Shakespeare play Anthony and Cleopatra. In taking Cleopatra to the stage in Istanbul, Cumbul is confident about the points of cross correspondence between Turkey and Egypt.