The Vancouver Turkish Film Festival brings women’s voices and stories front and centre

The Vancouver Turkish Film Festival (VTFF) returns for its 10th anniversary, and will be showing 10 award-winning films from Nov. 24 to 26 at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.

Co-presented by the Turkish Canadian Society and SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs, the festival looks to allow Vancouver cinephiles to connect with contemporary Turkish cinema and culture.

This year’s lineup will consist of eight feature films – Almost Entirely a Slight Disaster, Black Night, Glass Curtain, Guilt, Hesitation Wound, In the Blind Spot, Lost in the Darkness and Suddenly – and two documentaries – A Day, 365 Hours and Drifting.

In addition to this being the 10th year of the event, another notable aspect of the festival is the various female directors involved. This year’s festival will see five female directors: Eylem Kaftan, Melisa Önel, Ayşe Polat, Ümran Safter and Somnur Vardar. Films such as A Day, 365 Hours; Glass Curtain; Guilt and Suddenly also dive deep into female stories, highlighting a focus on strong female figures.

A Day, 365 Hours: finding community while overcoming trauma

This year’s guest of honour is Eylem Kaftan, director of A Day, 365 Hours.

Kaftan, an award-winning director and writer born and raised in Istanbul, gained wide recognition after her documentary Vendetta Song, in which the director completed a road trip to investigate her aunt’s murder. Her newest film, A Day, 365 Hours, tells the story of three young girls affected by domestic and family violence and how the trio formed a sisterhood to overcome their traumas and take their abusers to court.

Eylem Kaftan.

“They were quite interested in being part of a documentary and were extremely involved in the creative process,” says Kaftan. “In a way, we wrote the story together. Being involved creatively helped their healing process.”

During the filming process, Kaftan debated putting masks on the young women’s faces to protect their identities. However the women eventually refused the masks, wanting the world to see them for who they are.

“They saw great potential to get rid of the fear, take action and bring justice,” says Kaftan. “They thought they would be a source of inspiration for other women who were too afraid to ask for justice or free themselves of guilt. And so far, in our impact campaign, their presence is bringing a new layer of inspiration to the audience.”

Kaftan also noted how she had not come across many documentaries about abuse, as abuse stories are often heavy, with victims not sharing their stories due to feelings of extreme shame or guilt. Despite the documentary’s heaviness, Kaftan noted the touch of lightness the young women bring to it as well.

“I think my film reflects the moments of lightness and joy these girls share. Their moments of compassion, empathy and tenderness towards others is what makes the film a bit different from many abuse stories.”

Following the screening of her film on Nov. 25, Kaftan will be holding a Q&A session with assistant director Nural Sümbültepe.

Suddenly: a story of female self-discovery

Also included in this year’s list of female directors is Melisa Önel, director of Suddenly.

Önel is a director, photographer and writer based in Istanbul who has produced two shorts, one documentary and two feature films, with Suddenly being her second feature. The film had its Asian premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival, and its VTFF showing will be its 2nd in Vancouver after its Vancouver premiere at VIFF in October.

Melisa Önel

The screenplay, which was co-written by Feride Çiçekoglu and Önel, tells the story of a woman named Reyhan who, upon realizing she has lost her sense of smell, decides to leave everything behind and begin an adventure of self-discovery.

For Önel and Çiçekoglu, telling a story of self-discovery was extremely important, as these stories are often explored through a male character’s perspective.

“In our case, Reyhan is the one that decides to walk away and allows herself to drift, to become a Flaneuse in the city, trying to trace her memories in Istanbul while hoping the experience will reconnect her with her sense of smell” says Önel.

While Suddenly is about Reyhan’s experiences throughout her journey, Önel says the film is meant to convey something more about Istanbul itself, as well as broader themes about women’s agency and exploration.

“[It’s about] the way we experience the city and how this female character explores it at her whim which can be a contested issue for female characters.”

For more information about the festival visit