This study deals with the history of popular cinema in Turkey, called Yeşilçam. Yeşilçam’s dawn, rise, and fall extended over four decades, from 1950 to 1990. Yeşilçam is discussed through four notions: Turkification, hayal, melodramatic modality, and özenti. While cinema started in Turkey by interweaving two screens, the traditional and the modern, Yeşilçam had a dream (hayal) of making films similar to Western cinemas, especially Hollywood. But the presence, combined with the technologically belated arrival, of this Western medium in a non-Western land brought about its own particularities and peculiarities, reflected by Turkification (practices of translation, transformation, and restitution).
Yeşilçam represents a transitory state enmeshed with the drama of nation building and characterized by an aggressive attempt to unify multiplicities. The dubbing of films, both foreign and domestic, led to Turkification, a process of making films ideologically “proper” to Turkey. Yeşilçam also “Turkified” the Western cinematic language through remakes and adaptations, producing not only a non-realistic, postsynchronized filmmaking, but also an active (mis)translation and transformation, thus inventing a popular cultural synthesis, a cinematic amalgamation of the West and the East.
In the meeting of a two-dimensional Eastern scopic regime with a three-dimensional Western one, özenti (imitation or pretension) indicates a perpetual movement from Eastern self to Western other in Yeşilçam’s desire to be like the other, i.e., Western popular cinemas. But a return to original self is impossible in this movement, and through özenti, Yeşilçam continuously transformed itself. Thus özenti suggests a rhizomatic existence, not being one nor being the other but being in a continual movement, in between two cultures.
Yeşilçam’s “melodramatic modality” deals with a particular history of filmmaking that combined realistic film language with non-realistic and anti-illusionistic traditions in its various genre films. Specific analyses of these films address the changes in both the socioeconomic and the cultural milieu, and the cinematic practices and their consumption. Through the introduction of these four notions, this study not only attempts to revise the Turkish histories on popular cinema in Turkey, but also aims to introduce the English-speaking audience to this under-explored field.