Hello ladies and gentlemen, your pal Muldoon here at the start of Fantastic Fest 2015. So far it’s been a great first few days, full of wonderful films, fun familiar faces, and a general excitement in the air – fun times. I was able to catch a screening of Cem Kaya’s new documentary, REMAKE, REMIX, RIP-OFF yesterday and would love to share my thoughts on the film with you.
I’ll admit I’m nowhere near as cultured cinematically as I wish I were. When it comes to foreign films crossing my desk it’s largely in part to film fests like this one or word of mouth by friends with similar tastes in movies, so the Turkish film industry is something I’ve just not been aware of given it’s not constantly put in front of my face as much as American films (go figure). In fact, up until this film, my knowledge of Turkish cinema was limited to the knock-off super hero clips they screen at the Alamo before a feature (like “Turkish Spiderman” before THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN). It’s those clips that opened my mind up to the idea of intercontinental rip offs. Of course you can point to films like MAGNIFICENT SEVEN/ SEVEN SAMURAI, THE LION KING/KIMBA THE WHITE LION, RESERVOIR DOGS/CITY ON FIRE, LET ME IN/LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (and the list goes on), so by no means do I think it’s just the US exporting unique ideas that get remade – it’s a global concept of seeing what’s popular and then adjusting it to fit a specific market.
While I’d love to see a film specifically about that, the concept of global remakes, that is what attracted me to this film, seeing intellectual properties run free in a land where copyright laws are virtually nonexistent. It’s an attractive thought, the concept of taking something someone else created and making it your own for financial gain (oh wait, that’s still stealing…). So back to the film:
Welcome to Turkey. It’s home to Yesilcam, the Turkish Hollywood where, in the late ‘70s, dreams were built on nothing more than a dime. Both a loving tribute to the burgeoning cinema of this young country and a trip into history, REMAKE, REMIX, RIP-OFF brings you the most outlandish story you’ve never heard: filmmaking so dangerous you need a safety harness just to watch.
REMAKE, REMIX, RIP-OFF is incredibly interesting and informative, filled with numerous talking head style interviews with some of Turkey’s most accomplished filmmakers. The film does a beautiful job of setting the stage, establishing the locales and key figures involved in the cinematic gold rush of Turkey’s filmic booms over the last century. It’s a condense film course I wish I had taken in college, packed with first hand accounts from the trenches of Turkish filmmaking, distribution, and exhibition.
The film stays within the confines of Yesilcam, the Los Angeles of Turkey, home to well over seven thousand films spanning a century and provides beautiful images of Yesilcam’s filmic heyday. Cem Kaya and company have uncovered some lovely photos that are juxtaposed with recent footage of the same area. It’s humbling to see the hustle and bustle of the past paired with the rather lifeless corpse of the city now (in terms of filmmaking). Kaya did an incredible job of populating the film with interesting characters with the vast majority of them genuinely grinning ear to ear and filling their time with humorous anecdotes from back in the day. It’s kind of like listening to your favorite grandparent tell a story, but an interesting story that’ll keep you wanting to hear more.
The struggles and tribulations of these filmmakers, men and women who would crank out a feature in three days, is something I found incredibly endearing, from the perspective of an independent filmmaker myself. Hearing how they ignored safety concerns, laughed off permits, and didn’t have time to be artistic with framing their shots… it’s interesting. Of course I’m sure individuals were injured and while the film briefly touches upon the unionization of film crews in Turkey, I have a hunch there’s a darker side that’s not adequately represented here, something a little sleazy as ultimately we are talking about copyright infringement to turn a profit regardless of quality or safety to humans,. Or are we? An argument presented in the film is they were simply making these properties more of their own, to see a local actor as the hero instead of some guy who doesn’t look and sound like them. I get that, and personal ethics aside, it’s still incredibly interesting to see what they did and how they went about doing it. I mean seeing a clip of Captain America fighting a villainous Spiderman is pure magic, something I almost feel wrong for watching, but can’t quite look away from.
I had fun with this film and feel I walked out of it with a unique perspective I didn’t have while going in. If seeing clips of your favorite classic films being ripped off is something you’d be interested in, or hearing stories from quantity-minded filmmakers of the pas, then you should absolutely seek this documentary out. I do think it goes on a little bit too much at times, a few excesses lulls (like continuously proving a point once its already been made) knock off a few unquantifiable cool points in my book, but yeah – it’s an interesting film and I’m glad I saw it. It screens again at Fantastic Fest this next Tuesday at 11:45, so give it a shot if you can.
- Mike McCutchen