How far can paying off debt go?

Duygu (left), a debt collector, and Ceren (right), a debtor, play a cat-and-mouse game in the film | Photo courtesy of Ersan Congar

Director Tunç Şahin wants the hunted to become the hunter in his film Two Types of People. The movie, presented by the Vancouver Turkish Film Festival (VTFF) on Dec. 8. follows three characters and their will to survive a system that puts them into heavy debt.

Şahin and producer Ersan Çongar reveal that their film reflects a harsh reality not only in Turkey, but also in many other countries.

“We are all fighting the same battles. This monstrous machine called capitalism is grinding us all,” says Şahin.

A game of cat-and-mouse

The film poster for Two Types of People summarizes its plot: three people trapped in a labyrinth, desperately seeking a way out. This movie tells the story of two employees from a debt collection agency going after their new target, a young debtor, by using all means possible.

“It’s a neo-noir film taking place in the finance world,” sums up Şahin.

The film quickly turns into a cat-and-mouse game as the protagonists’ roles constantly switch, passing from hunted
to hunter.

“It’s almost like a heist movie: they’re trying to do a sort of robbery,” says Şahin without spoiling the mystery.

According to the producer, the movie is full of suspense that will keep the audience hooked.

“As the film unfolds you discover something else, which makes you even more curious as to what will happen next,” adds Çongar.

Accurate depiction

For Şahin, the trigger to writing the script was his sister being pursued by an agency that collects receivables.

“For two weeks we talked to this woman working for a company. After a while we realized we had been led in the wrong direction. We made all the wrong decisions,” he says, adding that it is easy to be manipulated when being scared and ashamed.

His personal situation is not unique, he adds, and many Turkish people can relate, pointing out that most of the population in the country currently hold debts.

“Everybody in Turkey is feeling this huge financial danger. Even if you are not in debt, we all know that we are one or two steps away from that – unless you’re very wealthy,” Şahin says.

What makes the film unique is that the story is not only told from the perspective of the debtor, but also from the company’s employees.

“[I asked myself] what sort of human being would wake up every morning to go to an office where they would pressure people who are already at the end of their rope? ” shares Şahin.

As he investigated the topic, he found that many employees are burnt out because of working under high pressure, most of themselves being indebted.

Universal story

Besides the prevalence of family bonds – a Turkish cultural element – the story could be easily translated to many other countries as debt is everywhere, says Çongar. And it includes Canada. In 2017, the OECD ranked Canada as the country with the highest household debt levels. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Vancouver had the higher debt-to-income ratio of the country in 2020: for every $1 of their disposable income, Vancouverites owed $2.10.

Data privacy is another issue discussed in the movie. The debt collection agency would dig for debtors’ personal information, such as their relatives’ phone numbers.

“Let’s say you have debt, you can’t pay. They will call your parents, spouses or distant relatives. It’s a common practice in Turkey. They don’t have the right to do so. You cannot interfere in someone’s life like that,” says the director with frustration.

Seeking for debtors’ personal information is also a common practice used by debt collection agencies in Vancouver, as one can read on the websites of CGI Credit Guard Inc. and
Dixon corporations.

Crack in the system

Despite appearances, Two Types of People is not a dark film. Şahin explains he wanted to show a glimpse of hope and of self-esteem to the Turkish people who frequently see all their dreams crushed.

“The system is designed like if you make one mistake you’re out and everything ends. But the consequences don’t need to be that dark. You can find a way through. No matter how vicious the system is, you can always find a crack in the system,” he says.

This prospect of a fresh start seems to have spoken to the public. The movie was selected for several festivals in Turkey, Germany, and China. In 2020, it won the best screenplay and best supporting actress awards at the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival. In addition to the Vancouver Turkish Film Festival (VTFF), the movie will be shortly broadcasted at the Seattle Turkish Film Festival in one of the most indebted countries in the world.

Two Types of People will be screened at the VTFF on Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. For more information visit www.vtff.ca

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