Who knew a documentary about Turkish copy culture could be so fresh and unique?
Western films are popular in other countries outside the Western European and American sphere, but who knew they were popular enough to get blatant copies made in Turkey? Cem Kaya’s documentary delves into the Turkish Hollywood of the 70s and 80s, Yeşilçam, where hundreds of films were made a year, most of them with stolen plots, lines, and even footage from famous Western films. At one point in the documentary, an ex-director holds up a record of The Godfather and indicates his original idea: using the entire soundtrack in many of his movies, without crediting the makers of the film at all.
What’s most insane about hearing this is realizing not only the lack of international law regarding copyright, but how bad conditions were for Turkish filmmakers and actors at the time. It continues today, with Turkish television shows having episodes as long as two or three hours, needing to be shot in six days. The crew can’t see their families, and actors end up working themselves to the point of serious health issues. It’s been protested at various events on Labor and Solidarity Day for many consecutive years now, yet nothing is being done to combat it.
As for the filmmakers at the time of copy culture, the demand for movies was so great that they didn’t have the time to write original scripts. That is why so many movies were recycled from Western Hollywood to Turkish Hollywood. They had to use limited amounts of film reels due to the volume of films being produced on a weekly or daily basis. The documentary itself combines interviews with past stars of this period, many who can’t even name all the films they starred in, along with filmmakers, modern film scholars, and clips from these famed movies.
As you can see, the documentary is a wealth of information about a little-studied country (at least here in America) and its cultural quirks, along with the resourcefulness of artists there.
All in all, Remake Remix Rip-Off is a strikingly original documentary that exposes a potentially embarrassing chapter in Turkish cultural history while also poking fun at Western egocentrism.
The Knockturnal screened the film at the New York Turkish Film Festival this past weekend. In its 15th year, the festival has become one of the leading film festivals in New York. The festival was sponsored by Turkish Airlines and America.