Onat Kutlar: Cinema Is a Feast, 17-18 June 2022, Birkbeck Cinema

Day One Registration Day Two Registration

“Onat Kutlar: Cinema Is a Feast”, organised by Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (BIMI), will be the first dedicated academic workshop exploring Onat Kutlar’s intellectual legacy in cinema at the intersection of literature and his life in times of major political and cultural turmoil. The event will combine screenings and discussion, with contributions from a range of experts on Turkish film and literature.

Films to be shown:

Yusuf and Kenan (Ömer Kavur, Turkey, 1979, 80 min.)

A Season in Hakkari (Erden Kiral, Turkey, 1983, 110 min.)

In 1962, the young Turkish writer and poet Onat Kutlar (1936-1995) returned to Istanbul from Paris. He was already a young wonder in Turkey, who had won the Turkish Language Association Prize at the age of 24 for his, by now cult, short stories book Ishak considered to be one of the first examples of the magical realism genre. In Paris he had encountered the French Cinémathèque, and films made by the giants of filmmaking. Despite strong opposition from Yesilcam, the Turkish version of Hollywood, these encounters would lead to the foundation of Sinematek in Turkey (with friends and collaborators including Sakir Eczacibasi), and the creation of the film magazine Yeni Sinema, inspiring a whole generation of young filmmakers and film enthusiasts, and laying the stones towards the establishment of the International Istanbul Film Festival. 

“2 July 1962, Frankfurt. […] I am going back to my country […] to all the people I love. […]  My passion and dedication are so much more than just a (deeply) burning feeling now: more like a storm that goes over me. […] I have no idea what I will face in Turkey.  But I am full of ideas, strong and willing. This time, I know there won’t be anyone I can rely on but just me. I am fully confident that I can overcome every possible obstacle. I believe this is the only gift that the “West” gave me. An experience tightly connected to a life with full openness. […] Now I can say everything I want. And that is more than enough!” (Onat Kutlar, Diaries of Ash, 2020)

Next to his well-known literary work, Onat Kutlar wrote three screenplays for films that would go on to win major prizes in international film festivals (Berlin, San Sebastian, Mannheim, Antalya, among others).  Until Onat Kutlar’s untimely death in 1995, he was the major force in Turkish cultural and literary life. His legacy endures.

With contributions from: Yunus Aksoy (Birkbeck, University of London), Zuhre Aksoy (Bogazici University), Seray Genc (Yeni Film), Aslan Erdem (Sabanci University), Olcay Akyildiz (Bogazici University), Yuce Aydogan (Kadir Has University), Jak Salom (Bogazici University), Nuray Mustu (Istanbul Film Festival).

Full programme:

Friday, June 17 2022

Birkbeck Cinema

43 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 0PD

18:00 – 20:00                        Film Screening: A Season in Hakkari

Saturday, June 18 2022

Birkbeck Cinema

43 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 0PD

12:30 – 13:00            Registration and Coffee (Cinema Foyer)

13-00 – 15:00           Film Screening: Yusuf and Kenan

15:00 – 15:10           Coffee Break

15:10 – 15:30            Welcome and Introduction

Yunus Aksoy (Birkbeck, University of London)

Zühre Aksoy (Boğaziçi University)

15-30 – 15:55           “The Story of Yusuf and Kenan: The End of 1970s in Turkey, Migration, Streets and Children”

Seray Genç (Yeni Film)

15:55-16:20               “We Walked into a Fight Called Life”: Childhood in Istanbul in the Late 1970s

Aslan Erdem (Sabancı University) Via Skype

16:20 – 16:30           Coffee Break

16:30-16:55            “Onat Kutlar as a Flaneur through Genres” 

Olcay Akyıldız (Boğaziçi University)

16:55-17:20               “The Off-Screen in Onat Kutlar’s Art”

Yüce Aydoğan (Kadir Has University)

17:20-17:45                “The Magic Pen of Onat Kutlar”

Jak Şalom (Boğaziçi University)

17: 45 -18: 00           Coffee Break

18: 00 – 18:55          Panel: Onat Kutlar’s Cinematic Legacy

Jak Şalom, Olcay Akyıldız, Yüce Aydoğan, Seray Genç, Nuray Muştu, Zühre Aksoy

Moderator: Yunus Aksoy

18-55-19:00           Closing Remarks

Michael Temple (BIMI Director)

19:00 Reception (Cinema Foyer)

20:00 Dinner*

With special thanks to

Ferhat Ciğerli

Nuray Muştu

Thanks also goes to

Zekeriya Kurtuluş

Hülya Uçansu

Nermin Saatçıoğlu

Elly Ormanlar

Fanatik Film

Ahmet Hızarcı

Kenmovie A.Ş.

Selçuk Yavuzkanat

Ulaş Bölük

Uluç Kutal

*Dinner by invitation

Onat Kutlar (1936-1995)

Onat Kutlar was a highly influential writer, poet, film producer and the founder of the Turkish Sinematek (1967).  His book, Ishak (1959), composed of nine short stories, most of which are written from the point of view of a child and are often surrealistic and mystical was the recipient of the 1960 “Turkish Language Association Short Story Award”. According to the literary critic Fethi Naci, these represent a very early example of magical realism genre. In 1985, he was a member of the jury at the 35th Berlin International Film Festival. The International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) Prize in the National Competition of the Istanbul International Film Festival is named after him to commemorate his contributions to the Turkish cinema.


Yusuf and Kenan (1979): Yusuf, 14, and Kenan, 9, are two shepherd brothers. When their father was killed as a result of a blood feud, children flee to Istanbul to find their only relative, uncle Ali. However all efforts to find him fail. They meet a street kid named Böcek (insect) under the brutal conditions of the big city. And Insect introduces them Carpik (crooked), a young man who does illegal activities. Carpik suggests Yusuf to work together. Desperate Yusuf accepts this and starts burglary with him. On the other hand Kenan resists.

(1979, Milano, Antalya film Festival Golden Orange), Hazal (1979, Prades Film Festival, First Prize, Manheim Film Festival, Golden Ducat Award, Mannheim Film Festival, Ecumenical Jury Award, Mannheim Film Festival, Audience Award, Den Haag Film Festival, First Prize)

A Season in Hakkari (1983) An urban Turkish teacher is transferred for political reasons to a backward Kurdish village in the mountains near the Iranian border. He is welcomed with distrust, but during that harsh year the mutual cultural misunderstandings fade away.

 (1983,C.I.C.A.E. Award – Honourable Mention Interfilm Award – Otto Dibelius Film Award Competition, Silver Berlin Bear Special Jury Prize Berlin Film Festival)

Speakers and panellists:

Jak Şalom, born in 1946, was the director of Turkic Languages and Civilizations Department at Paris National Eastern Languages Institute between 2006 – 2012 and assistant director of Eurasia Division between 2009 and 2012. He is a member of the founding professional team of the Turkish Cinematheque Association. Şalom is the designer of the Cinematheque/Cinema House project under Kadıköy Municipality. Between 1999 and 2012 he taught Project Administration at Les Teintureries Theatre School at Lausanne, Switzerland. Since 2015 he teaches the lectures Cinema and Audience: Sociological Debate and Twelve masters: Film As Art at Boğaziçi University. He holds the rank of officer of France’s Art and Literature order.

Olcay Akyıldız recieved her Ph.D. from the Comparative Literature Department of Tübingen University, Germany with a dissertation on Occidentalism in Turkish Literature. Since 2001 she has been teaching at the Department of Turkish Language and Literature at Boğazici University Istanbul. Her research focuses on the question of the “Other” in different cultures and literatures, orientalism and occidentalism in literature, travel writing, gender and sexuality in literature, gynocriticism. Akyıldız has edited books on autobiographical genres (Autobiographical Themes in Turkish Literature: Theoretical and Comparative Perspectives.[Ed.] Olcay Akyıldız, Halim Kara, Börte Sagaster. (Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2007)) and travel writing Venturing Beyond Borders: Reflections on Genre, Function and Boundaries in Middle Eastern Travel Writing [Ed.] Bekim Agai, Olcay Akyıldız and Caspar Hillebrand. (Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2013)) She is a member of the editorial board of Toplum ve Bilim and Metafor Journals and member of executive board of Boğaziçi University Nazım Hikmet Culture and Art Research Center. She directs a project on the personal archive of the turkish author Leylâ Erbil. She edited a book with Murat Gülsoy on Nazım Hikmet which was published by the Boğaziçi University Press (Şiir Dünyadan İbaret: Nazım Hikmet Üzerine Yeni Çalışmalar [Ed.] Olcay Akyıldız, Murat Gülsoy (İstanbul: Boğaziçi University Press, 2019))

Aslan Erdem born in 1987 in Istanbul prepared and presented a radio show called Karanlık Armoniler. He worked as a content editor in Center for Turkish Cinema Studies. He published his works in the fields of literature and cinema in various magazines and books. He received his master’s degree with the thesis of Hâlid Ziya Uşaklıgil’in Romanlarında Umut ve Umutsuzluk. He prepared the books titled Yaşanmış Ağır Bir Ezgi: Onat Kutlar İçin Bir Harita with Burcu Şahin and Bahçelerinde Yaz: Füruzan Edebiyatı Üzerine with Hilmi Tezgör. He continues his PhD studies at Marmara University. Erdem, who is a member of the editorial board of Monograf magazine, has been working as a lecturer at Sabancı University since 2016.

Yüce Aydoğan completed his BA in Philosophy at Boğaziçi University Istanbul, his MA in Turkish Language and Literature at Boğaziçi University, and obtained his PhD in Turkish Language and Literature at the same university with a dissertation that examines Oktay Rifat’s poetry in terms of the concept of “the economy of sense” and the relation between poetic sense and contemporary critical thought. He has taught and developed a number of bachelor’s courses focusing on the relation between politics and literature, literary and cinematic representation of emotions in contemporary culture, and academic writing at introductory and advanced levels at Sabancı, Yeditepe, Galatasaray, and Boğaziçi University. Currently, he is teaching at Core Program, Kadir Has University Istanbul. His research interests lie broadly in modern poetry, analysis of literary discourse, literary theory and contemporary thought.

Seray Genç is a London-based film critic  and researcher. She has studied Economics at Boğaziçi University. She started to write about cinema in the Görüntü magazine of Boğaziçi Cinema Club BÜ(S)K and Yeni İnsan Yeni Sinema published by Nazım Kültürevi. She obtained her PhD in Cinema Studies from Marmara University. She has contributed to several edited volumes, “Third Cinema and Third World Cinema” (Es, 2007), “Class Relations” (Bağlam, 2011), “Revolution or Average: Production, Experience and Technology” (Bağlam, 2013), “Turkish Cinema in 80s” (Aksav, 2011), “The Films of Rebellion and Revolution” with an article on Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (Yordam, 2013), “Meeting with the Artist: Theo Angelopoulos” (Bağlam, 2013) and “Theory of Cinema” (Yordam, 2021). As a part of Documentarist – Istanbul Documentary Days’ workshop, she co-directed animated-documentary Berkinimiz. She co-organised of various film festivals such as the Documentarist -Istanbul Doc Days, Which Human Rights? Film Festival, Labour Film Festival and Cornwall Short Film Festival.  She is a member of Fipresci and SIYAD and the Editor of the Yeni Film Magazine. 

Nuray Muştu  graduated from Anadolu University Faculty of Business Administration, Department of Hospitality Management. She started her career at ABC Photography AGençy in 1985. She still continues her duty, which she started at the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts in 1986, as the Manager for Turkish Cinema Relations, Communication and Operations at the Istanbul Film Festival.

Yunus Aksoy is a professor of economics at Birkbeck, University of London

Zühre Aksoy is an associate professor of politics and international relations at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul.