Gökçe Açıkgöz: Philosophical Filmmaking

May 6, 2019
Emerging European experimental filmmaker Gökçe Açıkgöz reveals how an artist from Istanbul finds herself in Sydney, and the intersection of philosophy and art in her films.

Turkish writer-director Gökçe Açıkgöz has worked throughout Germany and Poland, screened her films in Sydney and Brisbane, founded a lab focused on the expansion of experimental art; and produced street performances, artworks and short films.

Now based in Sydney, the artisan finds herself facing her biggest challenge – living in another continent, making works which cross-pollinate psychological and art theories.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who is Gökçe Açıkgöz?

For the past 10 years I have been working as a professional filmmaker, scriptwriter, producer and videographer, and as an acting, filmmaking and photography educator in Europe.

I have been producer and director of a few short and medium length movies and some street art performances. I have also completed experimental artworks and research on the intersection points of performing arts in my Art Laboratory, which I founded in 2013; a centre dedicated to exploring experimental acting and directing theories through cinema, theatre and philosophy.

The Art Laboratory continues with training and workshops given in different countries around the world, under the directorship of Gökçe Açıkgöz. What makes these workshops unique is the fact that creative projects designed in very short amounts of time are brought to reality with talented participants.

I’ve resided in Sydney for about 5 months, and during this time I have produced a few music video clips and directed some colourful workshops. I also give private artistic workshops regularly, such as filmmaking, scriptwriting, photography and acting.

My latest movie Peacock was produced in Poland and has been shown at a few special film events in Brisbane and Sydney. My other films The Egg and Hope Crumbs have also been screened in Sydney.

I have since been on radio programs on SBS and Movie Metropolis in Melbourne, introducing myself and my future plans in Australia.

You’re originally from Istanbul. How did you end up in Sydney?

After I gained valuable experience in Europe and Turkey, I followed the voice in me, and I came to Australia. When I was in Europe, I was dreaming of coming to Australia and combining the unexplored miraculous beauties of this land with my art.

As a filmmaker, whose work do you look up to?

I follow the works of filmmakers who make films with high artistic depths and use varied techniques. Although many of them have already emigrated from this world, they continue to leave a marked legacy with their artistic work. Such as Andrei Tarkovski, Theodoros Angelopulos, Bernardo Bertolucci, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Francis Coppola, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick etc.

You’ve spoken about ‘New Turkish Cinema’ previously. Do you see yourself as part of that movement?

New Turkish Cinema directors often have similar themes. The themes and style of the New Turkish Cinema is very different from how I work technically and artistically. So, I do not see myself as part of a New Turkish Cinema. On the contrary, I see myself as the representative of a universal cinema movement, a new style, with the works of art I do. I must add that Turkey is a country with a rich artistic history. We also have very valuable works in the field of cinema. Every nation has waves. If we look at recent history, Turkey has experienced a major change in the attitudes of the youth after June 2013. After this time, we young people, especially artists, feel like there is more support from each other… I am producing universal works by reflecting my innovative and fearless approach to art as well. As part of this strong time in Turkish film, I am determined to combine my quest with an artistic and innovative movement.

What made you get into filmmaking?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. My writing journey, which began with stories, evolved into scripts and poetry. I developed my skills with the training I received at Marmara University Cinema and Television department and I adapted my scripts to film.

Tell us a bit about your film Peacock.

In this movie, I invite people to get close to themselves and the nature. Wherever on the earth you go, it is very possible to see people who are far away from not only their personality, but nature too.

The story focuses on people’s existence and their search for reality. As we are trapped in the world sieged by rules of the capitalistic canon, we’re alienated to our own realities, we are not aware of the loss of beauty. In this short movie I hope to create a kind of awareness.

How would you describe in your words your process of working with actors?

I had 23 talented and passionate artists in Peacock. They were professional artists who undertook training from different art disciplines such as theatre, cinema, performance art, music, dance, painting and acting. We had two very pretty kids. All of them came to Poland from around the world to make Peacock happen. Despite the difficult weather conditions, the actors gave their best performances. I congratulate them with all my heart.

You’ve mentioned that you’re interested in exploring elements of cinema, theatre, philosophy. Can you explain this a little more?

I was very interested in incorporating philosophy and art theories in cinema, as well as to be interested in acting methods and performance art while I was working in the Art Laboratory I founded in 2013. That’s how I made my art a philosophical foundation. Based on the philosophy of existentiality, I address the concepts of humanity and life and this determines the flow of the stories in my films.

How would you classify your films?

My films are separated periodically. In my school years, I started with a short film psychological thriller trilogy, and I made experimental short films. In Turkey in 2012, I shot a 33-minute film which is called Seeking, a dramatic movie. The films I shot after 2015 are more experimental, poetic and surrealistic. As a screenwriter, I love to write in the drama, horror, and science–fiction, psychological thriller and fantastic genres. Apart from the films I produce, there are some documentary films I work on also.

What do you aspire to do with your art?

Art is the greatest reality that we have in life, beyond death and it represents the beauty. Beauty feeds on good and evil, lies and truth, beautiful and ugly, all the contradictions that exist in life. My favourite feature of the art of cinema is that it contains different art branches and can offer realism to the audience. The art of cinema carries today to tomorrow and tomorrow to the present. Thanks to that, you can produce works that can predict the future. Using the constructive power of the art of cinema in the future, I want to produce art films that foresee tomorrow.

You’ve worked in Austria, Poland and Germany and collaborated with artists in Poland, Greece, Indonesia and more. Where do you plan to take your work next?

I came to Australia to share my experience and knowledge and make a difference to people. I want to touch the people who live far away with my art. I also do private artistic workshops about Filmmaking, Scriptwriting, Photography and Acting with people who want to improve their artistic skills. There’s only one world for me. Every country, every continent, every human being, every language means a different reality and story for me. I combine my art and the people of this world in my films and reach the universe with them. I came to Australia for this purpose. I’m thinking about shooting my first feature film in Australia. I’ve already started working on it. After Australia, I might be doing my art in a different country.  It is good to see the world as a whole and to reflect on it as a whole.

What’s next for you?

Just wait and see!

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