Ferzan Özpetek: The Director Between Italy And Turkey

Ferzan Özpetek is a film director and screenwriter, who holds a unique position in the cinematic world particularly for his thematic focus and technical achievements.

Born in 1959, Özpetek is also known for his double roots: his homeland Istanbul and Rome, where he was warmly welcomed to study in 1976 and where he created his life and career. His soul appears to combat the sentiment of nostalgia for both the Italian and Turkish cultures, which is a key element coming through his films.

His passion turned into determination when Özpetek was given the opportunity to explore and experience diverse settings where he met prominent personalities and gain notoriety. His debut as an independent film director in 1997 with “Hamam” (“Il Bagno Turco”/”The Turkish Bath”) calls for novel material with profound meanings. Here, he chooses to portray multiculturalism, inspired by his childhood memories in Turkey and the joy of finding his place in the world, Italy. The feedback received from a vast and worldwide audience was very positive, setting high expectations for upcoming films.

The filmmaker’s signature is printed to a high standard and is to some extent influenced by his personal experiences and feelings, swaying between the shadows of his past and his creative present. The plurality- Turkey and Italy, and vice versa – seems to give voice to an interior need to depict these societies and values, in that their combination has benefitted and enriched Özpetek’s perspectives on life and his motivations. He says: “deep within, I love being a Turk in Rome and a Roman in Istanbul”.

Romantic but at the same time realistic, Özpetek’s work is an artfully fusion of tones and atmospheres, inspiring scenes, and interesting characters, all in Mediterranean settings. Repeatedly, the main characters find themselves misplaced or lost, which initiates a deep and complex journey and is followed by a moment of revelation, transformation and possibly appeasement.

Özpetek’s multifaceted efforts highlight social tensions and pressures by moving between passions and aspirations, fears and uncertainties, through different ages and social categories. In fact, his success lies in spotlighting the intimate aspects of every individual so illustrating delicate concepts and relationships as well as provoking reactions and critical thinking. This aspect is what makes the scenes produced by the Turkish-Italian film director inspiring, realistic and deeply touching. Personally, I enjoy how Özpetek portrays the different stages of life as well as the dynamics within a family structure. The latter are not always traditional and stereotypical as one may want to believe and this causes issues and complications, scrupulously reproduced in many films. The most important, “His Secret Life” captured my imagination, encouraging me to watch it. I found it is overt to realities and has a simple but credible storytelling through which the details and authenticity allow the spectator to think about the brighter side of the world. I recommend Özpetek’s films especially in the original language as they capture the strong conventional ways of Italy and its citizens.  He has consolidated his fame by winning several important awards and is ready to surprise us with other imagery and storytelling while aiming for inclusiveness and open-mindedness.

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