Films of a film of a nation: On "The Destruction of the Russian Monument at San Stefano" and "The San Stefano Project"
Berk, Ekrem Serdar
MetadataShow full item record
This M.F.A thesis project is one that takes the perceptions and fate of the so-called first Turkish film The Destruction of the Russian Monument at San Stefano as it's topic and point of departure; it constitutes an investigation of this monument, its destruction, the film of its demise and how both the film and the multiple stories surrounding it are in fact symptomatic of Turkish history. The original film—which has never been found, in fact, may never have even been made—was a document of the toppling of a Russian victory monument within Istanbul as the Ottoman Empire entered World War I. This war saw the Ottoman Empire’s demise and the subsequent birth of several nation states, including modern Turkey. The product of this investigation will yield a 16mm serial film, named after the original film, which will take many years to complete. For this stage of the project, I have made two films: A Prelude , which investigates the myth of the film as the first Turkish film and serves as a prelude to the series. By focusing on an interview of the filmmaker’s (Fuat Uzkinay) two daughters via footage from a Turkish documentary on film history, I introduce both the topic and the subtle and not-so subtle ways in which our stories can be put to serve certain interests. The second film is No , which gives an account of, and attempts to slyly undermine, a call to war that was read the day the monument was destroyed by focusing on the personal desires of one hypothetical individual among the crowd gathered. The written portion of my thesis is positioned in the context of work by Hollis Frampton, Dilek Kaya Mutlu, Jorge Luis Borges, Tess Takahashi, David Gatten and Tony Conrad——all of whom have variously influenced the project’s conception or the individual films themselves. The written portion gives an overview of the history of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, while further explicating how this film series is an attempt to address my cinematic and moral needs. Properly, this thesis central question is how such a project can go about to answer my own anxieties about my own country's convoluted and violent history. I believe that the stories around the lost film can be seen as a cipher wherein one can see themes that are just as relevant to other episodes, more tragic ones, within Ottoman and Turkish history. Making a film series about a lost film is for me a way to grapple with these historical issues and with my own identity as a Turkish filmmaker working in the avant-garde tradition.