Off-White Tulips

Off-White Tulips
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Off-White Tulips

L’età dell’oro dell’Impero ottomano è chiamata “l’età dei tulipani”, proprio ciò che lo scrittore afro-americano James Baldwin trovò nella cosmopolita e vivace Istanbul del 1960. Fuggito dagli USA per via della sua omosessualità, osteggiata anche dalla comunità nera, Baldwin approda in Turchia dopo aver soggiornato, nei tardi anni Cinquanta, a Parigi, dove scrisse la sua più celebre opera, Giovanni’s Room, uno dei primi romanzi di culto del mondo gay. Affidandosi a un linguaggio ibrido, tra documentario e video arte, Aykan Safoglu, giovane filmmaker turco, ma berlinese d’adozione, apre l’album dei ricordi di famiglia, regalandoci un saggio poetico e biografico sulla memoria. Un flusso d’immagini esclusive (fotografie, cartoline, giornali e locandine d’epoca) che instaura un ipotetico dialogo tra il regista stesso e quell’intellettuale senza patria e senza razza. Vincitore del Gran Premio al Festival di Oberhausen nel 2013. (TGLFF)

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Concentrating on James Baldwin’s extended stays in Istanbul in 60’s and 70’s, the video explores the limits of an autobiography mostly relying on found materials such as Sedat Pakay’s photography. Racism, transnational discourses, queer politics and appropriation art are also being investigated throughout the video-essay.

CRITICA:

Aykan Safoglu’s film refuses easy classification; it’s densely intertextual, multitextural, steeped in the contextual; touching on a variety of politics, some sexual.
It is intensely autobiographic and deeply biographic, drawing inspiration from the time that polymath and activist James Baldwin spent in Istanbul. There are layers here, layers upon layers – photographs in time tracking a mother’s progress towards blonde hair, a shot through a viewfinder of a photograph upon a page that has been ripped from a book, all in a film that is itself in part inspired by another film, Sedat Pakay’s From Another Place.
Its complexity is well served by almost flawless subtitling, no mean feat given that it’s a portrait of lived experience from Germany by way of Turkey which has as its ostensible focus an expatriate from New York’s time in Istanbul. Juggling languages and borders is difficult enough, but conveying a sense of the proximate other as efficiently and entertainingly across them requires real skill.
There’s a discussion early on of white-balance, and then tulips, and history, geography, politics, and scores of other things that run back and forth and around and weave something compelling, convincing, commendable. More importantly it speaks to nationality and sexuality, of childhood and compulsory military service, the emigre experience and yet more. It seems fair to call it a film essay, indeed, it’s near enough to identify it as anything else, and it’s a good, even great one. It’s ludic in places (there’s colouring-in!) and thought-provoking throughout, existing in a web of intersections that draws the viewer in and holds them. (Andrew Robertson, eyeforfilm.co.uk)

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