EDITORS NOTE: This is part of a series of interviews, conducted via email, profiling directors who have films screening at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.
Huseyin Karabey‘s “My Marlon and Brando retells the true story of Turkish actress Ayca Damgaci, who heads to Baghdad in search of her husband (her “marlon and brando”), Kurdish actor Hama Ali Khan. Damgaci co-wrote the script with Karabey and stars as herself i the film, which also features Khan’s actual love letter videos he sent to Damgaci. indieWIRE talked to Karabey about the film, which is screening in the World Narrative Competition at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.
In the Tribeca catalog, TFF artistic director Peter Scarlet writes that “My Marlon and Brando” is “a piece of rough magic, a film with a soul as light, a heart as heavy, and a will as steely as its heroine’s own. Karabey’s experience as a director of documentaries shines through in his devotion to ethnographic detail – he’s eager to let the camera stray, verite style, and this helps bring home Damgaci’s growing sense of dislocation.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking?
I am one of four boys from a working class family. Growing up in Turkey, I felt that what I had lived or what I had witnessed was never represented on the screen. It used to upset me and then I decided to do it myself but I wanted to be in the film business in my own way which meant working in the right way for my stories. Some of our methods seemed like madness to the conventional industry but I hope we are inspiring young filmmakers in Turkey to get out there and tell their own stories in their own original ways. I love cinema so much. I will continue making films untill there is nothing left I want to say or show.
What was the inspiration for this film?
Ayca is a close friend of mine. Two years after she told me what she had gone through in her quest to be reunited with Hama Ali, we decided together to make the film. What she had lived and what I had lived were so close to each other so I combined her experiences and mine. “My Marlon and Brando” is a movie of anti-heros, true love, true people and true wars. Unfortunately, nowadays, we are too often offered untrue stories and fictions that do not reflect life on the ground during wars. My characters in the movie are going from West to East to find their happiness. Normally it is the contrary. In addition, I always want to tell stories that are standing just behind us in our daily life. It is too easy to miss the real things going on around us everyday.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film…
We didn’t want to lose the feeling of reality. For that reason, some of the actors in the film are acting themselves and others worked alongside people who participated in the real-life drama. Throughout the production, reality intercepted. When one of the drivers asked if he could stop at his parents’ grave in a destroyed Kurdish village, we ended up incorporating this in the film because his experiences were so reflective of those we were trying to represent in the story. What I am really looking for in making films is sincerity- sometimes that comes in humour, sometimes that comes in silence.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
We were not just dealing with the usual challenges of raising funding but also juggling this with the complexities of filming in this region. In fact, we were the last film to shoot in this part of Eastern Turkey and Iran before it became a militarised zone. We had to go ahead and shoot before it became impossible to do so. The scenes that were supposed to be in the burning Iranian heat were actually shot in the freezing snow as production was brought forward to the middle of winter.
What are your goals for the Tribeca Film Festival?
Tribeca Film Festival will be the first step for me to meet the American audiences. It is a great honour that my film is being shown at the festival. The main actress and my co-screenwriter, Ayca Damgaci, will be joining me to do lots of press interviews. It is so important because it her true story. My Producer, Lucinda Englehart, will also be with us to encourage the buyers! This is a critical stop on our festival circuit. From New York we go to Jerusalem and then Sarajevo!