An interview with Tugrul Sarikaya

INTERVIEWS Gustavo Coletti Gustavo Coletti

Tuğrul Sarıkaya - Director Of Balkancisco

I had the magnificent opportunity to interview Tugrul Sarikaya, on the occasion of his film, Balkancisco, which is participating in the 10th Music Film Festival, which will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

TOC - Where did you grow up and when did your obvious passion for cinema begin?

Tuğrul Sarıkaya: I grew up in Turkey. When I was a child, I was a curious kid. I was a documentary junky. Back then,in Turkey there weren't very good documentary producers at all.  I used to watch Discovery Channel and National Geographic on cable TV, which was a Luxury commodity at that time. I wasn't dreaming about being a documentary producer but today I ended up being one. :)


TOC – Are influences visible in your work?

Tuğrul Sarıkaya: Balkancisco's script is inspired by Fatih Akin's "Crossing the Bridge" documentary. In Fatih Akin's documentary, Alexander Hacke is discovering Istanbul's music diversity. In our documentary Duygu Gün is doing the same in San Francisco. She is exploring the Balkan music in the San Francisco Bay Area. Akin is one of my favorite directors. So I enjoy following his foot-steps in my documentary.

 Balkancisco Documentary

TOC - What were your film studies? 

Tuğrul Sarıkaya: I'm a self-taught director. I didn't have an opportunity to study cinema. I wanted to learn in the process. Since I studied Political Science, my head have always been filled with theory, which I hate now. I like to get my hands dirty. I believe it’s the only way of learning. I’ve learned everything by myself down to the smallest detail.


TOC - Are you interested in cinema as a business, as art, or some form of activism? 

Tuğrul Sarıkaya: I don't believe that cinema should have a mission. Of course a certain amount of idealism is required to be a good director or a producer. It's not doable otherwise. But too much idealism is an overburden on our shoulders. We should be realistic about it. We all want to be rewarded. The business side of the cinema does the job. It fulfills our need to be rewarded.


TOC - What was the job that gave you the most satisfaction?

Tuğrul Sarıkaya: People in our documentary are in love with music. The music genre that they are so passionate about is not a very common genre in the US. What they do is not always rewarding socially and financially too. But they are so in love with it, that they enjoy Balkan Music regardless. They are a unique type of people who choose their way of existence in this world. They are authentic. They should be embraced.  I see the beauty in them and I want to show what I see to the other people. That gives me the most satisfaction.

 Ismail Lumanovski 2

TOC – Tell me how you finance your movies.

Tuğrul Sarıkaya: We finance by ourselves. I know, It's not easy. 


TOC - Is there anything about “Balkancisco” that you need to explain?

Tuğrul Sarıkaya:I want to make the audience feel some kind of awe in themselves. Because, in Balkancisco, those musicians are awesome. What they do is awesome. In this digital age their occupation can be considered as very old-fashioned. But they don't mind it. They love Balkan Music and they enjoy their life with it. I hope I was able to explain their awesomeness in the documentary. Those people are very far from the Balkans and most of them had no ancestral ties with the Balkans. But they are singing songs together in a language they don’t understand and they don’t speak. Nothing pushes them to do so. That means there is a kind of magic in Balkan music and dance which draws people to it.  We captured them all on camera. You should see the movie.

 Ismail Lumanovski

TOC - What are you working on right now?

Tuğrul Sarıkaya:I have been doing visual marketing stuff recently. I shoot promos and advertisements for the companies.


TOC - Do you have a feature film project?

Tuğrul Sarıkaya: I have a new documentary project to work on. It's about a specific type of medical drug abuse in Turkey. It will definitely create an excitement in the audience. That’s what I can say for now.


TOC - What are your goals in cinema? 

Tuğrul Sarıkaya: I want to shoot and edit documentaries as many as possible. It sounds like a simple goal but it's not as easy as it sounds. I'll do my best in my lifetime.

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