Interview with Ali Cabbar, director of Bahçeler Put Kesildi [Gardens petrified]
Tuesday 1 February 2022, by ,
After his father’s death, Yusuf goes to his village, which he has not been to for years, and learns that a geothermal company wants to buy his father’s agricultural lands and drill a well. He wants to solve problems without disrespecting his father’s memory, but things don’t go as he hoped.
Where did the idea for the movie come from?
I have been living in Istanbul for many years and I have been dealing with cinema and television works. My family lives in Manisa and looks after our vineyards, which we have cultivated with great care for generations. We lost my father in late 2019 after a year of battling cancer. During this process, I went to Manisa and witnessed that the people living there constantly talked about the same problem during the condolence process. Some energy companies wanted to drill geothermal wells in the middle of farmland, and this worried the farmers. Sarıgöl has active earthquake and fault lines. There is a similar situation in other districts of Manisa, such as Alaşehir, Salihli and Buharkent. Years ago, energy companies came and drilled geothermal wells, and then everything about agriculture started to change. Instead of pushing the hot water, which they extracted just because it was 5% more profitable, they kept it in open pools and released it into the streams. The fish in those streams died, the lands dried up, the crops deteriorated, serious changes took place in the rain regime. Agriculture has almost come to an end. Not wanting to be put in the same situation, the local grape producers and my family started to fight seriously to defend their land. When I witnessed this struggle, the first ideas of the movie started spinning in my head.
How exactly did you shape the story of the movie?
I prefer to ask myself many questions about the final version of my films and shape them according to their answers. Peasants, the weakest link in the social chain, are experiencing many economic problems due to reasons such as the poor, increased production costs, market pressure, bank debts and the worthlessness of the land. In such an environment, what would you do if an energy company wanted to buy your land, which was previously three units, now for twenty units? Unfortunately, I don’t think there is an idealistic answer here. Therefore, instead of looking for a criminal in my films, I try to create situations that have a strong social background and allow us all to reflect on causes and effects. I attach great importance to building multiple layers so that not only the characters, but also the audience, come face to face with themselves.
Your film deals with the idea of honoring the memory of ancestors and the idea of betrayal. What draws you to such topics?
Because I also feel these two emotions and experience their contradiction. I experience this contradiction every day. Even if we don’t speak it out loud, deep down we all see the world collapsing. We know we have to do something about it, but we never get a real reaction. Because we don’t feel this destruction enough. In contrast, traditional producers and farmers are experiencing the shocking consequences of the climate crisis and global ecological destruction every day. These people live quite far from the city, the media, the means by which they can be heard. In my films, I like to focus on the places we miss or don’t want to look, rather than where everyone else is looking. Because I believe that works with real artistic value come from these places that we overlook. In this sense, I prefer to sit and talk with a restless minority rather than turning the lens to a happy crowd. I see this as an expression of the problems I have experienced in my own life, and I think that as a society, we need to find solutions to them.
What did you aim to discover in the relationship between Yusuf and Gülseren? What does it represent in the movie?
Yusuf is a middle-class character who lives in the city and whose parents divorced years ago. Gülseren, on the other hand, is a young woman who came out of a small village, graduated from university, became a teacher, but had to return because she could not be appointed. Gülseren seems to me like an unfinished bridge that has been wanted to be built between the village and the city. An environment where Yusuf is bored and suffocating. As the relationship between the two and the feeling of liking emerged, I realized that I could deepen the feelings between the characters, the questions of the movie, my own questions, and the search for the audience. I care about this: because I think that as a society we fail to love and trust another person. As such, most adults run away from their emotions, take refuge in rationality and glorify logic. But it seems to me that a passionate, dedicated, meaningful life can only be lived with emotions. Reason should protect us from harm. So my characters could break free from the restraining walls of reason and take real and effective action. These feelings in the film spoil Yusuf’s plans. In this case, I could understand the world Yusuf’s father was trying to build, the questions Gülseren asked Yusuf, Mustafa’s loneliness and despair, and I could help the audience find their own conclusion.
Is there a particular short film that left a strong impression on you?
There are too many, really too many short films. If you’re a storyteller, you’ve probably seen a lot of good movies. You want to go and watch a movie right away. I am not talking about visual, auditory and tickets works that are done as a dominant narrative. I’m talking about pure cinema, which invites you to discover something new about aesthetics, emotions and life. Such films occupy a constant place in your consciousness. And that effect manifests itself in every scenario you unconsciously write, in every scene you shoot.
What is your definition of a good movie?
In my perception, a good film means a work that has gotten rid of the supply-demand clamp, is not restricted to any dominant interpretation, is not closed to a single interpretation, cannot be reduced to a few interpretations, and can open itself to endless interpretations. I think movies that explore the complexity, the contrast, the contradictory nature of the human being, the urge to hurt, the love, the grief, the aesthetic, the emotional, and something new about life are really good movies.