HollyShorts 2021 Day 7 (Sept. 29th) Highlights + Q&A With Serhat Karaaslan

While the festival is nearing its close, we still have so much to see and so many wonderful films to enjoy. This penultimate day has a full schedule of talented filmmakers giving us incredible stories, such as the story by today’s “5 Questions With” guest, Serhat Karaaslan, whose film The Criminals shows us the journey of a young Turkish couple who just want a romantic night together. But, without their having an official marriage certificate, matters begin to get complicated. Please be on the lookout for that at the end of our highlights.

The Criminals – Karaaslan’s story of a young couple stuck between wanting to spend their time together and the rules of the land, this is an interesting and tense film that really shows the differences in modern cultures. In a place such as the United States, this would not be a story that needed to be told, but in Turkey, where this is set, this is how things work, which is something that needs to be taken into account. The actors in this film, Deniz Altan and Lorin Merhart, are phenomenal, and it’s a fascinating look into the way relationships are treated in another area of the world.

Savior – With speeches from the last hundred years of politics and calls for cultural change overlaid on top of a beautiful dance sequence, this film is powerful, gorgeous and a wonderful way to express the last century of American politics in a way that is not often used. There is something special in its ethereal movements, evoking intense emotions during its short runtime.

Twin Flame – One of the shortest films of the festival, this under three minute short chronicles the path of a relationship as it flourishes and dies away. It’s frenetic but packed with emotion, really helping to drive home how relationships can work, going from thrilling and happy to painful in the blink of an eye.

Cherry Lemonade – A beautiful coming of age story, the film focuses on a young girl who finds her own way to take charge in her simple goal: getting enough money to go and get a frozen drink on a hot day. An easy premise, but one delivered so well by the cast and crew, making it a must see for the festival.

Rebel – An utterly heartbreaking film about a young boy who goes on patrols with his father and their right wing group, this film shows its a painful part of culture from a perspective that doesn’t know any better. It hits hard, not glorifying those groups, but rather showing their impact on even those who don’t understand their purpose.

As well as all the great films on today’s schedule, we also get another installment of our “5 Questions With” series, this time with the incredibly talented Serhat Karaaslan!

Still from “The Criminals”

Q: Tell us more about your film.  How did it come to be? 

It’s based on a true story. But the real story was quite simple. I didn’t want to just tell the story as it was. The idea of the film stuck in my mind for years, matured over time, and when the mix of genres was involved, it made me more excited to tell this story. I decided to make this film when the security guard character appears.

At the same time making a film in a hotel room also excited me. I always found hotel rooms very cinematographic. Hotel rooms provoke curiosity as well as imagination I think. 

Q: What was your budget?

I don’t know the exact number, but it was around 90-95k dollars. The story takes place in Turkey and the film is in Turkish but the film is a French production. Because of the context, we couldn’t get any support from Turkey. In Turkey, there is only the state fund and they refused our submission. Film financed by French film center, Arte television and Romania.

Q: What was the biggest takeaway from making the film?

Until THE CRIMINALS I made social realist films. This time I discovered genre films. It’s again a social realist film however with elements of thriller, horror films. For me it was a risk to take and I’m very happy with the result. It was a very good experience for me and I do believe this film was very effective in developing my directing and storytelling skills and I dare to go further after this film.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in making this film?

In a patriarchal society, it was already a challenge to make this film, I think. A young couple looks for a place to make love. The content is very delicate for Turkey. A young couple go against an oppressive society and regime. Because of this I had some problems while making this film.

When we were looking for locations in Istanbul and other cities around, some hotels owner refused directly our request because of they thought that we were going to shoot an erotic or porn film. So, after a few experiences with some hotels, we hid that there is a love scene in the script. Another difficulty was finding actors. Some actors were very interested in the project, but when they read the script they found some excuses and refused the project. Some of them said that they don’t have any problem acting in love scenes, but for their career it will be too risky, and if they act in a love scene they will probably not find a job in the industry anymore. Some actors negotiated with me how much we were going to show their buddies, or how I’m going to shoot the love scenes. I had to explain to too many actors how I’m going to shoot the love scenes, which was a first for me as well. After a lot of auditions and negotiations with many actors we found two great young and brave actors.

Q:  What is next for you?

I’m working on a feature film project now. 

Thanks to all the filmmakers for their work! You can get tickets for all of the screenings for today, as well as any other blocks for the festival through BitPix and HollyShorts.

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