Outtakes: Semih Kaplanoglu

Semih Kaplanoglu.  

WHO is he?

Turkish screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor and film director who has directed five feature films since the early 2000s. Before venturing into films, Kaplanoglu worked for television and wrote poetry. He rose to international prominence with a trilogy of loosely-autobiographical films — together called the Yusuf trilogy — comprising Egg (2007), Milk (2008) and Honey (2010), the last of which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

WHAT are his films about?


Like the works of Greek filmmaker Theodoros Angelopoulos, the search for a primordial national or cultural identity is one of the primary themes of Kaplanoglu’s films. These films seek to tap into the spiritual traditions of Turkey, especially Sufism, and embody them in cinematic forms. The Yusuf trilogy is arranged in reverse chronological order, with the first movie dealing with adult life, the second with adolescence and the final one with childhood. These films, together, become a journey to a personal origin in which individual identity is peeled off layer by layer, as it were, to arrive at a spiritual truth.


Kaplanoglu’s cinema could be seen as belonging broadly to the slow cinema movement of the last decade. An inclination for long shots, a lack of musical score, location shooting with natural light, an understated acting style, minimal dialogue, plotless narratives and a richly ambient soundtrack suffused with sounds of nature are some of the most prominent features of his cinema. There is, however, an element of mysticism that is equally present in these films and is exemplified by suggestive narrative ellipses and abrupt juxtapositions.

WHY is he of interest?

Kaplanoglu’s position as an important Turkish filmmaker is often overshadowed by the justifiable popularity of fellow countryman and Palme D’Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan and also his own indebtedness to the works of Andrei Tarkovsky. Nevertheless, those interested in contemporary Turkish cinema can’t afford to overlook Kaplanoglu’s spiritual brand of filmmaking.

WHERE to discover him?

Honey (2010) revolves around the experiences of young Yusuf, who has to comprehend and deal with the loss of his father the beekeeper. On one level, Kaplanoglu’s film is about one kid’s formative transition to adulthood all alone, but it is also an existential parable in which the human kind has to come to terms with the discovery of the absence or, in any case, the threatening silence of a supreme power.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 10:20:54 PM |

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