A celluloid love affair

By Victoria Khroundina | November 27, 2014


This year, Turkish cinema celebrates its 100th birthday and Istanbul Modern celebrates its 10th. To commemorate both dates, the museum has staged an exhibition which highlights the ‘love affair’ between Turkish cinema and its audience. As per the majority of Istanbul Modern’s shows, the exhibition is well laid out and beautifully lit. Curated by Müge Turan and Gökhan Akçura, the exhibition takes viewers on a journey through Turkey’s cinema history, a history that would have largely been neglected had it not been for the efforts of zealous film fans. Film posters, paraphernalia, recreations of movie stars’ bedrooms, magazine covers and audiovisual displays are brought together for a thoroughly fascinating show that film aficionados especially will appreciate.

The above photo shows an example of a ‘cinema lantern’, which were gigantic handmade posters, often covering the entire façade of the building and illuminated from within, thus attracting audiences even from far distances. In the early years of the Republic, these ‘lanterns’ were painted by the artist Münif Fehim for cinemas on the Golden Horn and by Mithat Ağakay for ones in Beyoğlu.

The most common way for audiences to find out about which films played in which cinemas was from newspaper and magazine advertisements and film posters. The first illustrated film advertisement dates back to Ottoman times and movie posters began to adorn the streets of Istanbul in the 1920s, when the first cinemas opened.

‘The only place of entertainment on the Great Avenue suitable for everyone are the cinemas,’ said the journalist Naim Tiralı in his 1947 book The Great Avenue. The above photo shows Atlas Cinema on İstiklâl Caddesi in Beyoğlu (which is still luckily operating today).

Fans got their hands on any memorabilia they could: collecting autographed photos, trading cards inserted into packs of chewing gum, calendars, postcards, tea saucers and album books and getting haircuts fashioned on Turkish actors such as Ayhan Işık were just some of the way they showed their devotion. The above shows a signed photograph of the actor Engin Çağlar who had his heyday in the 1960s (left) and an example of a mad movie fan’s locker room. Its touches like this that make Istanbul Modern’s exhibitions special.

Film stars began appearing on magazine covers in Turkey in the 1920s. In the beginning, they were mostly foreign actors but by the 1950s, Turkish stars began appearing on the covers. Interestingly (or not), most of the time the stars who made it onto magazine covers were women. The writer Sezai Solelli, who wrote five feature films from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, says in the March 1963 issue of Ses magazine: ‘This has been a principle of marketing since ancient times. Advertising experts say that we should use women to sell whatever we want to sell.’

Other displays include old movie ticket stubs, photographs of gala receptions, recreations of stars’ bedrooms and examples of fan letters.

The exhibition runs until January 4, 2015.

Posted in Exhibitions, Film, History, Museums
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