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Video Editing

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8 Questions with Director Serkan Aktaş, Best International Film Winner for "The Librarian"


A man is walking up concrete stairs outside what appears to be a residential concrete building
'The Librarian' / Photo courtesy of Serkan Aktaş. All Rights Reserved.

The Librarian

Written and Directed by Serkan Aktaş


Overview:


Mazhar, who works in a library and is so fond of books and languages that he knows the location of all the books in the library by heart, lives alone with his parrot, but cannot be at work on time the next morning because he reads until late.


Determined to read even the poet Federico Garcia Lorca in Spanish, Mazhar feels “stuck” by the arabesque culture around him and the discomfort created by the Arabic signs and another language that has entered his life. There is another person who will listen to the character of Mazhar, who cannot tell his troubles to anyone and is alienated, and who is shaken by the tragic news of the refugees he encounters in the media, and that is the other Mazhar who often comes across him. After losing his job, he will not only look for a new job, but will make an inner journey that he will not say ‘yes’ to the result, but that he must accept involuntarily.


 

Q&A with Serkan Aktaş


Photo of Tony wearing a dark navy blazer and gray shirt.
Serkan Aktaş, Writer and Director of 'The Librarian' / Photo courtesy of Serkan Aktaş. All Rights Reserved.
Q1: Where did the idea for The Librarian come from?

Travis, portrayed by Robert De Niro, the anti-hero of Martin Scorsese's 1976 film "Taxi Driver", influenced the plot of the film. Based on this film, which focuses on the problem of miscommunication and loneliness of the metropolitan people in the world we live in, I had the opportunity to do some research on this subject and watch many movies.


Accordingly, the idea of making a drama film about the problem of miscommunication and loneliness of modern man came to my mind, but I could not make an immediate decision. However, as we are in 2020s, a series of social-politicalcultural changes have occurred in the country we live in, and the presence of Syrians, especially in Istanbul with more than a million people, and the Arabic language and culture that they want to impose has had an impact on me. As I started to think about this new situation, the character I would portray in the story began to take shape in my mind. This person would work in a "LIBRARY" that suited his intellectual identity and quests.


As the place where my character lives, I chose the district of Fatih in Istanbul, which is mostly preferred by the Syrian-Arab immigrants. Therefore, I made some observations to get a closer look. I noticed that the migrants brought their own culture of life (especially the food culture) with them to this neighborhood. They opened shops, stores and restaurants, and preferred their own language, especially in signboards.


Concerned about the vulnerability of the Turkish language in this district in which it faces attacks from other languages, the character who works as a civil servant in a library has an intellectual identity and enjoys reading books. In fact, he even tries to learn Spanish in order to read Federico Garcia Lorca, whom he greatly admires, in its original language. However, he ends up unemployed and increasingly isolated. Therefore, I decided to make a film based on the identity of such an individual.


In the story, the film would also question the character's own values and the significance of language in his life. It would also focus on how society pushes such sensitive individuals into loneliness. In reality, the whole thing would be an inner journey of the protagonist that shakes him by taking into consideration the possibilities offered by the language and the narrative techniques of cinema.



Q2: Were there any funny anecdotes or interesting and memorable moments while making the film?

The first day of the movie was very difficult. We worked for about 14 hours. We had to shoot the scenes that were scheduled to be shot that day. We also had a parrot named Socrat, who had very important scenes in the movie. I borrowed the parrot from my friend for the movie. We worked with the parrot for about 8 hours. Towards the end of filming, he constantly dozed off due to exhaustion. When filming was over, he said my name “Serkan” angrily once. However, we did not teach him my name.


A middle aged man is holding a book while speaking to a bird across from him. The bird is sitting in it's cage.
'The Librarian' / Photo courtesy of Serkan Aktaş. All Rights Reserved.

Q3: As an independent filmmaker, what were some of the unique challenges you faced in creating this film? How did you overcome them?


Due to some disagreements, I had to fire the entire cast 10 days before filming. Except for the key cast, I signed with alternative cast. I found the key cast accidently at the metro station. He is a street artist who performs pantomime. It caught my attention while I was dancing on the subway. I met him after he finished his work. I noticed his talent for acting and realized that he was very suitable for the key cast in the movie. He accepted my acting offer. He understood his role very well and in a short time he worked well into his role. Thus, he showed a good acting in the movie. He proved this by award-winning numerous "best actor award" from festivals.


Q4: What brought you into the world of filmmaking?

Definitely, the love of movies! Movies are make me enjoy! So my goal is making movies attractive for them so that they can enjoy. It’s in the nature of being an artist!


Q5: What films or filmmakers have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

Alfred Hitchcock, Akira kurosawa, David Lean, Sergio Leone, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, Giuseppe Tornatore, Francis Veber have been the most influential to me in my film career. I am very influenced with their endless energy towards movies, their desire to make movies and their success in it until the last moments of their lives.


Q6: Do you have a favorite film project that you have done? Why?

Yes I have. It is “The Librarian” short project. The Project is my doctorate project at Beykent University. I made it so I graduated. I have submitted it many film festival. It has won many award at film festivals. You can look at it on IMDb.


Two men sit across from each other at a desk. Behind them is an array of books stacked on a wall of shelves. The man sitting on the left looks stern. The man sitting on the right is speaking to him.
'The Librarian' / Photo courtesy of Serkan Aktaş. All Rights Reserved.

Q7: What advice would you share with a new filmmaker about filmmaking or the industry?


I advise 4 Essential things!


1. Read everyday,

2. Watch eveyday,

3. Write everyday,

4. Make your film


Q8: Do you have any future projects coming up?

Yes I have. It is “The Bloody Ridge” feature film project. I already finished screenplay of the project. It will be my first feature film! That’s why I am so exited! I hope I make the movie next year. The Project is about the battle of between Turkish Army and British army in Bloody Ridge, Gallipoli during the World Word I.

 

Serkan Aktaş is an international indie award-winning film and video producer, director, writer, editor and educator. You can find out more about him and his projects below:

Thanks for reading Cosmic Film Festival news!

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