As ČeskoTurecko / ÇekTürk team, we are very glad to meet Sibel Güvenç in Prague and to have an interview with her. She is an awarded director, writer, producer. Besides, she is the founder of Kybele Films — which was established in Toronto, Canada. Her company now functions in Canada, Turkey and recently in Czech Republic.
You could enjoy the interview below (done by Lucie Semanská) — to learn more about her successful career :
1. My first question concerns of how have you get to the movie industry? Is it something you always wanted to do?
I actually studied Statistics at the university and graduated with a rank of two. However, after some years in corporate life, I couldn’t stop dreaming about going back to study in an Art Academy. Since childhood, my passion was music and then later, I also started to paint. When I finally had a chance to start OCAD University, the oldest and largest art and design institution in Canada, I was working as an Assistant General Manager in a steel company in Hamilton and was commuting to Toronto as a part time student at nights. After a year, I quit my job and had my degree in Integrated Media, Film. Being accepted to OCAD with my music and painting portfolio, I didn’t know that I was actually seeing life through frames all the time. Soon, I realized I was very talented in cinematography and I was finally able to bring my creativity in visuals and sound together. My filmmaking process is influenced by my background in visual arts, as I make collages, like photographic scripts to visually develop my scenes and music has still a vital role in my filmmaking career.
2. Your career and life is closely connected with Canada, as you lived long time there. How different is Canadian and Turkish movie industry?
I lived close to fifteen years in Canada and I went back to Turkey for three years when I received an offer as a director and producer at a commercial production house in Istanbul. For me, the dynamics of the feature film industry was so different creatively and business wise. Such as, in screenwriting, for me, there are still too much cliche and arabesque taste, but there is now a new generation connected internationally and I believe this will only get better in time. There are very talented and successful Turkish filmmakers receiving recognized awards all around the world, but the challenge in Turkish film industry is that filmmakers have to invest their own money to survive and continue making films. Compared to Canada where we have so many different funding bodies, in Turkey, Government spending and funding support is very limited and there are no qualifying mechanisms that appreciates the talent and continuous growth. This prevents having a viable and sustainable independent film business. Indeed, it’s sad to see some successful, talented and creative producers go bankrupt. But, yet, the TV industry in Turkey is growing rapidly with worldwide international sales.
3. You are interested in making short movies. What is your audience of the short movies?
Short movie audience is usually the film festival goers. In Canada or North America, before making a feature film, it’s expected that you make lots of short movies and get recognition. So, I followed the same path, received awards with seven of my short films and I was accepted and selected to prestigious programs in Canada, but then, it’s like falling in love with short stories, I loved making shorts. “Hungarian Salami” is a part of a short film series called “Newlyweds” where each story evolves around a myth, a wedding and a food that belongs to one culture. You can explore so many different themes and styles in short films. I feel myself so free in making shorts, whereas I need to follow a structure in feature film to hold the attention of the audience longer and make sense. Having said that, of course, I’m working on my feature film projects. Currently I’m developing “Eyes of Dreams”, a psychological drama and “Broken Eggs”, a sci-fi and looking for coproduction partners in Europe.
4. In my opinion, in the Czech Republic, short movies are less popular and not so promoted. Is this different in Canada to Europe / Czech Republic?
In Canada, there are lots of short film festivals and a great audience. All the big festivals have an inclusive short film section. This is also same in US. I don’t have enough knowledge to comment about Czech Republic and Europe, yet.
5. Where do you see the future of the short movies?
Let me ask you, where do you see the future of short stories? This is just a form of creativity and you can’t kill any type of expression. Will it grow? I don’t think so especially that filmmaking tools are very accessible and everybody thinks they can do a feature, why a short one?
6. You live in Prague with your husband and kids. My question is obvious – why Prague?
When we would be moving because of my husband’s job, we were considering UK or Czech Republic and I preferred Prague. The idea of being in the center of Europe, in a magical city with a culture I was not familiar with, was very exciting for me. I love challenge and pushing myself and with that, I believe something magical can happen as we explore new things in life and about ourselves. I also heard the reputation of FAMU and I was pretty excited for the film industry here.
7. What was the most difficult thing you have to get used to here?
Language and the sound of it. Since I came, I’ve been taking Czech courses for a year, but I still can’t use it much. And, so far, I also find the industry pretty closed and local which is a challenge.
8. Your short movie In the Penal Colony is based on the story of Franz Kafka. Why did you choose this story? This is not the most famous story by Kafka and it is considered a bit morbid.
In the Penal Colony started as my thesis graduation project and then, of course it went beyond and became a professional film. When I read the story for the very first time, I was very impressed as I’m pretty sensitive to justice issues in the world. In the Penal Colony is a very timeless story with many layers. The complexity in the story, the machine and the personal sufferings of Kafka aroused my interest and creativity to make a film based on the story. It was a very challenging and difficult process from writing to finally composing for the film. ‘In the Penal Colony’ is about guilt and punishment in a malfunctioning system and how it breaks individuals and societies into a broken society where things are not just and freedom is not free and everyone is a victim. The film is not an act for disbelief or gloominess. In contrast, it is a piece that penetrates the psyche with optimism for hope and understanding.
9. When I read the story few weeks ago, first thing that came to mind was – how the machine will look like in your short movie. Did you follow the Kafka´s description or you put some of your feelings when making the machine for the movie?
The film is my interpretation of the story and where I would like to go with it taking it further to even get Kafka involved as a character. There are references to Kafka and his relationship to his father in my film as well. I was not only interested in the story, but also why Kafka wrote it. There are two different story lines in my film. The first one is the penal colony, the apparatus and the second one is the inner world of the characters. We go in between these two: the presentation of the perverted power relations in the penal colony and each individual’s feelings as a result of their own perception. All of my characters in the film are tortured physically or mentally. The machine as we call it apparatus in Kafka’s story is the central theme. All throughout the story, the officer describes how the apparatus functions in detail and it’s very articulate. I worked with a sculptor to build the apparatus. We put lots of discussion and thoughts into it as a team of artists to be loyal to Kafka’s description, but also to reflect the interpretation. The design and function of Apparatus in the story has a very masculine approach. It represents the male competitiveness to hold and execute power. The parts of the apparatus have sexual representation of male and female organs in the way they move, operate and function. In the film, I changed the gender of the explorer character into a female character, which brings a totally different and, in my opinion, a more truthful dimension. The Officer does not like women. He has a fear of them, because of his own feelings of inferiority. While building the apparatus, we also need to take these changes into consideration.
10. You are not only filmmaker, but also artist. Is there anything specific what you try to say by your paintings?
My artwork is about connection. Connecting with your inner self and through that connecting with the universe. I like the mystery that we carry in ourselves for century long through our collective subconscious and the personal subconsious that is shaped through the society and the family. I like bringing out the hidden things within ourselves and empowering the spirituality. This calls for honesty and that’s what I’m trying to do with my art work, to be honest to myself.
Her awards are seen below :
Secrets won a Silver Award as Best World Music Video at 43rd WorldFest Houston International Film Festival, 2010.
The Almond Sorters won a Platinum Award as Best Jazz Music Video at 42nd WorldFest Houston International Film Festival, 2009.
2009 Bravo!FACT award winner for Secrets.
2008 Bravo!FACT award winner for The Almond Sorters.
Selected to 2007 Toronto International Film Festival Talent Lab.
Recipient of 1st Annual Quebecor Fund WIDC Director’s Chair Scholarship-Full
Awarded one of the eight director’s chair positions in the 2007 session of The Women In the Director’s Chair Workshop in Banff.
Hungarian Salami, 2007 Best Comedy Nomination at 60th Yorkton Golden Sheaf Awards
2006 Ontario Art Council, Grants to Emerging Media Artists
2006 Bronze Medal in Film and Video Art, In the Penal Colony, 39th Annual WorldFest Houston International Film Festival
2006 Best Cinematography, In the Penal Colony, Through Her Eyes – Women Film Festival, New York
2005 Best Abstract Film, Palette, One Minute Film and Video Festival, Toronto
2003 Proficiency in Film, Willimiam F. White Prize, Toronto.
2002 Proficiency, William F. White Prize, Toronto.
Hope to see you all in our upcoming ČeskoTurecko / ÇekTürk Movie Night on 9th of December at 19:00, at Unijazz (Jindřišská 5). You could check the details of this great event here : Krátké filmy a diskuze s režisérkou SİBEL GÜVENÇ