#12: Meet MEHMET BINAY & CANER ALPER

20 10 2009

Films: “WHISPERING MEMORIES” and “TALKING PICTURES”

Mehmet Binay & M.Caner Alper

Screening: Oct. 24th, 12:30 pm – Armenian Program 1

WM-TP posters

Whispering Memories” is not a story of Armenians who had to leave Turkey but of those who stayed behind and silently became Muslims: they are now called the ‘Converts’.

This film documents ‘Armenian Converts’ and how they survived 1915 by remaining in the small village of Geben, in the Taurus mountains of Anatolia.

Talking Pictures,” is the sequel to Whispering Memorie. It shows the photographic journey of Ghazaros Kerjilian returning to his paternal home town of Geben, Turkey – and his search for his lost great uncle in 1915.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and where you have lived, highlighting any major cultural identities that define, influence or challenge you in your life.

We come from different backgrounds; Caner Alper, an engineering graduate but a self-taught screenwriter and Mehmet Binay, a political science graduate with professional experience in TV journalism. We’re trying to incorporate the power of fiction and non-fiction by getting inspired from real life and weaving these facts into dramatic stories.

Our family roots are also from different parts of Turkey. Mehmet has got roots in the Balkans and in Central Europe whereas Caner was born in the most western city of Izmir into a family of eastern Anatolian descent.

We’ve also been spending half of our time traveling in Asia, North America, Europe, the Caucasus and the Middle East for business and inspiration. One requires a stranger’s point of view to life and people in order to be able to create compelling stories which few have noticed before. We need to alienate ourselves to our own culture, people and traditions for objectivity and creativity. This is how we define our way of story telling.

2. How did you come to be a filmmaker, and where/how did you learn the “craft” of filmmaking?

Caner is a published writer and a self-taught screenwriter and he’s always been a cinema lover whereas Mehmet learned the craft of filmmaking in television productions. Reading non-fiction and literature is also a very important component of creating stories because your imagination in written texts has no limits but you face the challenge of turning these into visuals. Filmmaking is an art form where your imagination constantly needs to evolve and it needs to be supported with new techniques.

3. What prompted the idea for your film and how did it evolve?

“Whispering Memories” developed from a number of visits by Mehmet to Geben, a mountain village in southern Turkey, where village youngsters showed a desire to learn about their local history and, while investigating, came across Armenians who used to live in the area until 1915. Some of the witnesses of this era and members of the local Oral History Project were saying that some people in this village are direct descendants of converted Armenians who either silently or by force became Muslims to be able to avoid deportation in 1915. Mehmet’s initial journalistic instinct was to keep a distance to these rural historic conversations by using the camera as an observer only. Caner, later on, helped establishing strong cinematographic links by integrating a three-day rural wedding into the visual story and having it serve as a leitmotif throughout the film…

The sequel “Talking Pictures” to “Whispering Memories” showed us that documentaries are always alive and they evolve within time…”Kerjili” was the only Armenian name villagers of Geben in “Whispering Memories” remembered clearly and they told us how he left the village in 1915 and never came back. Soon after our premiere at the Golden Apricot Film Festival in Armenia, we received an email from someone telling that his father was from Geben and that he always wanted to go back there. The email was from Ghazaros Kerjilian which really surprised us because it immediately reminded us of the name “Kerjili” in Whispering Memories.

Our short documentary “Talking Pictures” tells the photographic journey of Ghazaros Kerjilian returning to his paternal home town of Geben and his search for the lost great uncle in 1915. In “Talking Pictures”, we used a different filmmaking technique and used only still photographs to tell our story. We took nearly 7.000 pictures and created continuous sequences after a long process of colour grading. We believe that photographs from archives and still photographs mix well together and they leave an eternal mark in people’s memories and we wanted to instigate that feeling among our viewers.

At the same time, music also plays an important role in our creative process serving as an indispensable part in our stories. In “Talking Pictures”, we worked with an Italian film music composer who listened to the Armenian song “Cilicia” which we’d recorded by one of our protagonists while shooting the documentary. Composer Paolo Poti carefully rearranged the music and based the entire soundtrack on this famous Armenian song with a classical approach. We are very excited about the international debut of “Talking Pictures” at ARPA International Film Festival in LA and we’re hoping to receive a lot of feedback from the screening.

4. What is your single favorite line from your film?

From WHISPERING MEMORIES: “A coward, a real coward is one that is afraid of one’s own memories.”

From TALKING PICTURES: “I had to go, I had to find out…”

5. What movies would you say have transformed or changed the way you see the world?

So many! We basically love movies that cover many aspects of the identity issue. Some of the films that have influenced us are: Europa, The Edge of Heaven, Baader Meinhof Komplex, Le Dernier Metro, Hable Con Ella, The Reader, Tous les matins du Monde, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, City of God, Remains of the Day, Bicycle Thief, Sophie’s Choice, Constant Gardener, Reds, Being There, Lives of Others, The Crying Game, The City of Lost Children, A Short Film about Killing, Delicatessen, Ice Storm, Wedding Banquet.

Whispering Memories Trailer –

Talking Pictures Trailer –

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21 10 2009
‘Armenian Converts’ were also victims of the Ottoman Turks « Armenian Genocide

[…] “Whispering Memories” and “Talking Pictures” […]

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