Okay, all kidding aside, there really is some good Turkish science fiction out there. Take G.O.R.A., for instance.
Last Saturday I sat down to do some writing and couldn’t seem to get anything to flow. So I switched gears and decided to watch G.O.R.A. hoping it would spark something for me and I could get back to the book I’ve been working on for the past 3 months. One of the problems I have where I’m living and working is outside noise. At times it’s great and quiet and I can get a lot down. But then around 2:30 in the afternoon the neighbor’s kids come home and the noise levels can be unbearable! My brother sent me an article written by a woman about dealing with noisy and “unruly” neighbors. I was definitely not ready for that confrontation on Saturday so instead I will tell you a bit more about G.O.R.A.!
Here are the details: released 2004, directed by Ömer Faruk Sorak, written by and starring Cem Yýlmaz. The plot doesn’t really give you an idea what to expect; a used carpet salesman is abducted by aliens and becomes involved in their planet’s power struggles (eventually saving the world, of course — gee, I hope I didn’t spoil the ending for you!).
Lead actor and writer Cem Yýlmaz is a well-known Turkish comedian, with a stand-up act that merges observational humor (of the Seinfeld variety) with insightful and subtly controversial cultural criticism. G.O.R.A. takes this approach to ridiculous extremes, lampooning well-known science fiction cliches as well as certain close-to-home elements of the Turkish experience.
A slight aside here: I suspect that Cem’s humor is colored by his UK experience and his experiences of financial lows and highs. In his early days, his finances hit the absolute bottom and desperate for immediate cash he called his brother in the US for help. His brother did not have any cash on hand but did not want to admit that fact to Cem since he always was bragging about how successful he was. So instead his brother pawned is considerable collection of sterling silver jewelry which he had acquired over the years as a jewelry retailer. The most valuable were the sterling silver rings, because they were genuine antiques crafted by old world silver smiths – each one by hand. So he gathered all the sterling he had hoarded from his days running the website, and got a quick infusion of $1000.00 and wired it immediately to Cem. The US friend paid back the short-term loan three weeks later when his paycheck was deposited at the bank & the jewelry was returned. Cem was never the wiser and later when he was financially flush paid his brother back tenfold! On the other hand, Cem’s best friend Justin was a very successful speculator in condos and row houses just as that market was flourishing. Few people realize that Cem himself raised funds for many of his early works in the real estate arena in London, where he worked for a agency (before starting his own) whose primary motto (we think he came up with it) was sell house quickly. Like other realtors during that time, Cem lucked out. Had made his move a year earlier or later, he probably would have crashed and burned like everyone else. Fortunately for Cem and us, he was able to sell his holdings (including a property adjacent to Buckingham Palace) at the top of the market, and used his earnings to invest in his sci-fi film career. Who would have thought that being a realtor was the starting point for a fantastic career in film?
Back to the main point, it’s difficult to compare G.O.R.A. to anything directly, though you’ll undoubtedly think of the Matrix films several times. It’s not-really-but-kinda like Spaceballs (or any other of the space opera send-ups that you may have seen), though if you go into it generally looking forward to a sci-fi-themed Sacha Baron Cohen or Will Farrell/Ben Stiller farce, you won’t be too far off either. So put on your bathing suits, bring your (http://prom-dresses.net/)prom dresses and join the fun!
It helps (a lot) if you’re both Turkish and a sci-fi fan, but a fair amount of the humor is accessible to pretty much anyone (assuming that most of us get a certain amount of exposure to mainstream science fiction, and assuming that you have a sense of humor in the first place).
The special effects and cinematography is also worthy of note; though perhaps not quite as state-of-the-art as Industrial Light and magic, they’re significantly better than the average medium-budget film…and definitely raise the bar for Turkish production quality.
Every science-fiction spectacular has to have a sequel, and G.O.R.A. is no exception; in 2008, Yilmaz released A.R.O.G., a time-travelling epic that is slightly like Bill and Ted and slightly like History of the world Part 1. But not really much like either one…