Fear and Fascination
An interview with Zephyr's Belma Baş
Turkish director Belma Baş has been
getting a lot of attention for her feature-film debut,
Zephyr, which had its world premiere at the Toronto
International Film Festival before screening this week at ADFF. Baş
sat down with us to talk about how her childhood and her
fascination with nature influenced her entrancingly beautiful but
disturbing story about a troubled mother-daughter
The Turkish film scene is
very vibrant right now. How do you fit into that? Do the filmmakers
co-operate with each other?
Yes, of course. We've had many
difficulties, and the new generation of Turkish cinema co-operates
with each other. We are a small group now, but we're getting
Is there a sharp divide
between independent and mainstream Turkish
Our case is phenomenal in that
respect. Our main supporter is Cem Yılmaz [a popular Turkish
actor]. It's the first time that a blockbuster film star and
comedian is supporting an art-house film.
How is he supporting
We had a minimal budget. One-third of
the cash was ours, the second third was the Ministry of Culture,
and then one-third was from Yılmaz's company. It's the only cash we
had. All of the other support was in kind, from film labs and such.
It looks like a higher-budget film.
What are your
I have a lot of influences: from art,
from my personal history, from my education in English literature.
They form a puzzle for me; they are all pieces of a very big
picture for me. This film itself is a piece of that puzzle. It's
not the whole picture, it's just a starting point - starting from
the childhood of the heroine. I intend to make a series of films
about the journey of the heroine. The idea comes from Greek
A number of recent Turkish
films have been set in the same milieu, in the mountains of the
Black Sea region.
Yes. Like me, a number of filmmakers
came from that region, and then moved to Istanbul for our
education. We have a perspective on our region and our hometowns.
From that perspective, we analyze current issues of
The summers of my childhood spent in
that region were a big influence on me, with the mystery of nature
and with the tradition of my grandmothers, contrasted with the city
life I lived with my parents.
Have you screened
Zephyr in that region?
Not yet. Our national premiere was
[at the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival] last week. It was the
first screening in Turkey and for a Turkish audience. Before that
it was in Toronto for the world premiere. It hasn't shown yet in my
hometown or in Istanbul. People I know will see it later. I don't
know their reaction yet!
What was the reaction in
Some of the audience - mostly
middle-class people -
were not happy with the portrayal of the mother.
The film is mostly about the mother
figure. It happens to be against type for Vahide Gördüm [the
actress who plays the mother, who is also a television and film
star in Turkey]. It's against typecasting on purpose. But I wanted
to use her image. She carries with her the image of the
intrinsically good mother. I wanted to add another dimension to her
character. I didn't want to portray her as a bad mother. It was a
very delicate, subtle thing to show.
Tell us about the beautiful
macro shots of snails and other creatures in the
As a child I was mostly afraid of
those creatures actually! Unlike Zephyr, I was afraid of lizards, I
was afraid of snails. But as a whole, that world - nature - was
always amazing to me. It's was fear and fondness together - fear
and fascination. Later, when I was distant from that part of my
life, I grew fond of every tiny creature from that world. The
lizards in the film were my pets. I really mourned their deaths,
and I wanted a cinematic funeral for them. Now, I'm amazed by
snails. They are hermaphrodites, and that also represents the
child's androgynous aspect for me. And their slowness represents
the pace of the film. Fast paced cinema is for illusion. Slow-paced
cinema is for fascination and magic.
Zephyr screens at Cinestar
(Marina Mall) on Thursday, October 21 at 10:15pm
For tickets, click here: http://ticketing.abudhabifilmfestival.ae/