This video focuses on images of issues surrounding home by women filmmakers from a feminist perspective in Turkish cinema. The central questions of the video are: how do women directors portray home and from where do they look at it? Do they imagine new homes that promise hope and power for women?
Home provides a spatial framework for supposedly intimate relationships. This is probably why it is an issue, a place, an image that feminism scrutinizes with all its dimensions. So much so that the slogan of 'the personal is political', one of the basic slogans of the feminist struggle, aims to make those who are imprisoned in home and what is happening in this place a part of public discussions. It emphasizes that all these marked areas are related to the issues at the heart of the social: violence, oppression and abuse, all kinds of vulnerabilities, women's invisible labor, and naturalized care services. While the feminist gaze points to the private sphere, it destroys many of the romantic discourses associated with home and the halo of holiness that constantly produces invisibility.
This video aims to investigate images that revolve around the meaning of home created by women directors from the feminist perspective discussed above. It explores commonalities between images and sounds portraying home. It covers eleven art-house films directed by women between the years of 2012 and 2020. The time-period covered in this work coincides with the era of New Turkish Cinema that emerged in the late 1990s. When we focus on especially the last ten years of this cinema, we see that one of the significant elements of this period is women filmmakers’ productions. We are introduced to new women filmmakers who make their debut feature-length films that mostly engage with the feminist perspective. Thus, we can suggest that these productions of women filmmakers bring a breath of fresh air to the New Turkish Cinema in favor of feminist discourses.
The video opens with a broken image of a car, followed by two images of broken sinks. Three films including these images convey the emotional universe of home with similar metaphors. Broken objects act as a message regarding domesticity that directs us from how we should interpret domestic space. It is a voice that simultaneously interrupts many established discourses that haunt the family, home, and domestic imagination. Especially the sink images remind us that the historicity of home is partly that of the sounds coming out of the kitchen. Taking a real look at home means making these sounds audible, in a sense.
Broken images are followed by images such as homelessness or the feelings of homelessness, and the search for a 'real' home. These situations are conveyed in these films mostly through exterior shots. Thus, the abundance of scenes that take place outside the home are also still connected to the inside of the home. For example, scenes where women are walking in bleak urban landscapes bring to mind the absence of a home where one feels safe and happy. The women in these scenes are not in the streets to wander, or to pass the time, but rather they are in search of a home-related issue (looking for a house, a job, or a disappeared husband/father etc.) These recurrent images point to those who do not have a home to turn to, those who are crushed under the pressure it produces, and those who want to escape from a current home. On the other hand, there is one more walking scene towards the end of the video that holds opposite feelings to the previous ones. This scene reminds us of the possibility of new homes that can be built with new bondings.
The strongest bond we form with the home is probably connected to the mother. In this sense, home always points to the mother with one side. To a place, to a body where we escape as much as we take shelter. No matter how hard we try to leave it behind, we always carry it with us. Both nearness and distance. Both loved and hated. In these films, mothers are portrayed as both the perpetrator and the victim of the patriarchy. They surround themselves as well as their daughters with the endless spiral of patriarchal assignments.
The moments when mothers prefer to remain silent carry many clues about being a woman in a patriarchal society. What is the unspeakable? Daughters ask questions, mothers keep silent. The next generation tries to break the silence of the previous generation. The mother's complicity is brought to the table, the girls shout their rebellion. In the production of patriarchal ideology, these films also shift the gaze towards women by not seeing it only in relation to men. This change of direction opens space to read the areas covered by patriarchal ideology, its manifestations in different forms, its multi-layered and multi-agent structure. Films included in this video are common in the discourse they construct about motherhood. The rebellions of the characters in these films are also conveyed in a similar visual language.
This video not only explores the darkness of home, but it also explores new possibilities to diffuse that darkness. Along with the aspects of home that point to confinement, oppression, and gloom, it also looks at the possibilities of escaping from the forms of attachment that home signifies. It explores the stories of disobedient, stubborn girls who resist domestication, and sexist culture. This exploration shows that these films’ description of moments that pierce darkness shares a similar visual language. Such as the brightest moments or the most privileged images of these films are constructed from encounters between women. Attention is drawn to the productive possibilities that may arise in these encounters.
On the one hand, the films in the video constantly move side by side with the emotional universe of the impossibility of home, but on the other hand, they shed light on the possibilities to interrupt this feeling. The strength of these films is that they not only portray home as bleak, but also point directly to those who make it bleak. The possibilities that make the interruption are mostly made possible by the revolt of women and productive encounters between women in these films. So, these films point to the potentialities that women can build spaces and homes with other women.
Butler, Alison. 2002. Women’s Cinema: The Contested Screen. Wallflower.
Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and The Subversion of Identity. Routledge.
Çiçekoğlu, Feride. 2019. İsyankâr Şehir: Gezi Sonrası İstanbul Filmlerinde Mahrem-İsyan. Metis Yayınları.
Mayne, Judith. 1990. The Woman at the Keyhole: Feminism and Women’s Cinema. Indiana University Press.
Suner, Asuman. 2006. Hayalet Ev: Yeni Türk Sinemasında Aidiyet, Kimlik ve Bellek. Metis Yayınları.
 'Women filmmakers' as a category has always been a controversial issue (see The Woman at the Keyhole: Feminism and Women’s Cinema (1990) by Judith Mayne, and Women’s Cinema: The Contested Screen (2002) by Alison Butler). Like all categorisations, it also carries conflicts, contradictions, ambiguities, and some essentalist connotations. Furthermore, the categorisation of 'women' is itself assumed to be a controversial term by some theorists (see Judith Butler, Gender Trouble (1990)).
 Some of these filmmakers are Ahu Öztürk, Aslı Özge, Azra Deniz Okyay, Belmin Söylemez, Belma Baş, Ceylan Özgün Özçelik, Çağla Zencirci, Çiğdem Sezgin, Çiğdem Vitrinel, Deniz Akçay, Deniz Gamze Özgüven, Emine Emel Balcı, Esra Saydam, Melisa Önel, Merve Kayan, Nisan Dağ, Senem Tüzen, Vuslat Saraçoğlu, and Zeynep Dadak.
 Asuman Suner (2006) argues that the films of the New Turkish Cinema, which she traces from the second half of the 1990s to the early 2000s, are mostly based on the male narratives and dominated by the male gaze that make women invisible and inaudible. However, especially after 2010s in New Turkish Cinema we encounter films that subvert male gaze and narrations, some made by the women filmmakers mentioned above (see also Çiçekoğlu, 2019). Films by the male directors that also accommodate feminist perspectives are beyond the scope of this study.
Delal Yatçi has recently been awarded a Phd in the Department of Sociology at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul. She has focused on Turkish cinema from a feminist perspective in her doctoral thesis. She is also making videos, mostly from Turkish films. Her main research interest is the relationship between cinema and feminist theory. She is currently working on a short film project.