A Turkish Eye For Horror: An Interview With AMMAR Director Ozgur Bakar
We recently took the time to talk to Ozgur about Ammar, the state of Turkish horror cinema and what the future holds for him.
Hi Ozgur. Let's start with the obvious - can you briefly introduce yourself?
Coming from a scriptwriting background, just like many other directors, I decided in 2005 to film my first short in order to reflect the ideas within my head. The overall response was largely positive and the film went to win a number of awards which further solidified the idea that I was doing something right. Therefore I started trying to prep my first feature.
Until I became a director, I worked in a number of creative positions: scriptwriter, cartoonist, playwright, etc, etc. Within all these fields I have had works produced in a professional capacity which in turn made my transition to directing a tad easier.
Can you tell us a bit about the genesis of Ammar? What were your inspirations?
We decided to write Ammar last summer - my writing partner Alper Kivilcim had already established a structure for the script and the general prevalent atmosphere so I adapted what was already there to create something easier to film. I also created a more stylized over-all approach as I wanted the film to rely heavily on atmosphere. Our main inspiration was European horror cinema though it's undeniable that in Turkey, the script structure favored by Hollywood is almost ingrained into our DNA. I can't really pinpoint any directors within the genre who are specific inspirations - I tend to base scripts on my own fears and nightmares.
Ammar is a pioneer amidst the burgeoning Turkish horror genre - what, in your own opinion, does Turkish genre cinema have to do in order to become more popular?
Honestly because what we've done doesn't really have any precedent, it's very hard for me to fathom the reaction we might receive. But in a business sense because of the financial failures of the titles up until now, it's quite difficult to forge a cinematic horror language for Turkish genre. I'm not saying that we'll be the ones who start such a language but what I do think is that the Turkish genre needs to base itself on a universal base - something that can be understood all over. This is especially true for genre cinema.
One of the key cornerstones for genre cinema, for me, is to be able to shoot it for a lower budget - cinema is an expensive art form to dabble in, especially somewhere like Turkey and if your film is only appealing to a local audience then that film needs to guarantee its audience. For people like us, who venture out on crazy limbs, you either need a producer like ours or to pay for it out of your own pocket which again means a limited and lower budget which in turn can limit what you can reflect on the screen. I think, this is where the skills of the director are most necessary, the film needs a touch of class, a touch of genius to attract the audience - after all if the film's good, the audience will respond to it. I, personally, have not really seen any visually arresting films which have failed with audiences though there may be exceptions.
As a director how did your relationship with horror cinema start?
This is my first feature. Throughout my life I have written comedy: plays, sketches, tv shows and more. But as a cinema goer myself, I have an interest in almost every genre. I find cinema to be an extrovert art - a film is made to elicit a reaction from the audience: to get them to laugh, to cry. Within comedy films I had reached a certain level of ability to elicit laughs from the audience but had not been able to feed my own ego as a director. Within the comedy genre if the script is up to scratch as is your cast, then as a director you're left with not much to do. However within the horror genre there needs to be a harmony between lighting, camera, make-up, directing and as a director, it is an absolute joy to be able to conduct this orchestra. And for this I wanted to direct a horror film.
The trailer for Ammar became quite popular on foreign websites with a lot pointing out to an almost Evil Dead feel. Did you have such an intention when you made the film?
The only thing I remember about The Evil Dead is a crazy hand running about and even that I remember quiet hazily. I think the only Sam Raimi Film I've seen from beginning to end is Spider-Man. And I think people will need to see the whole of Ammar before coming to any conclusions about our film - however considering Ammar is a low-budget film shot over 15 days, I'd be fibbing if I said I didn't enjoy being compared to Sam Raimi.
What would be your dream 'extreme' project?
We have a script for Ammar 2 which is entirely set in the otherworld and which is heavily reliant of special effects. We're in talks with some production companies in the U.S. To be honest everything is riding on the success of the first film.