Mert Gurel is a Turkish film enthusiast with a particular passion for interesting documentaries about Istanbul. This is natural, given that he lives and works in the bustling city. His job as a fixer for video productions means he sources everything that foreign and domestic companies need to make a good film or documentary in Turkey. Basically, he ties up the loose ends and helps them to make the story come together.
Preferring documentaries instead of books, he believes people who have or do live in Istanbul have both contributed and benefited from its unique, chaotic atmosphere and diverse culture. To showcase this, Mert has picked his favourite documentaries about Istanbul that tell a story worth watching.
Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (2005)
Alexander Hacke, a German musician, travels across Istanbul to explore the city through music. The film not only illustrates the diversity of music in Istanbul; it offers a comprehensive description of the metropolis at all levels, including the history, the people and their lives stuck somewhere between the east and the west. Highly recommended, especially if you are in love with Turkish or Mediterranean music.
“Hundreds of thousands of stray cats roam the streets of Istanbul. They are a distinct part of everyone’s life. This is the story of seven of them.”
If you have been to Istanbul before, one of the first things you probably noticed was the number of cats roaming on the busy and noisy streets. This remarkable beautifully shot documentary witnesses their survival on this extremely urban city, and their interaction with its people. It did not take long for the film to be recognised internationally, and it is now available on Youtube Red.
Innocence of Memories (2015)
British director Grant Gee’s fascinating documentary, inspired by the Nobel Prize winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk’s novel ‘The Museum of Innocence’, is set in Istanbul during 1970’s and 80’s. The film has a unique European approach to Pamuk’s famous Turkish melancholy emerging from a sad, forbidden love story in Istanbul. Orhan Pamuk takes part in the making of the documentary, making it a must see if you are a fan of his novels.
Ekümenopolis: City without Limits (2012)
Be advised; this is not an easy-going Saturday evening watch.It is no surprise that Istanbul with a population of 14 million people, is larger than many countries in Europe, and it now has major environmental and structural issues. Ekümenopolis argues the problems of urbanisation and the rapid, unplanned growth of Istanbul based on real estate speculations, shopping mall frenzy and greedy consumption habits.
Author: Mert Gurel is a film enthusiast who has been working for a video production company in Istanbul for over 7 years. He hosts and helps foreign TV and documentary productions to produce short and long films in Turkey.