Resident Video 14: Tight Space

Resident Video is a monthly series that provides exclusive access to films from emerging artists. This month, we bring you Hasan Demirtaş’s Tight Space.

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Tight Space is a portrait of the shifting village Hasankeyf, Turkey by filmmaker Hasan Demirtas. The young local resident Ali and his friends work daily as tour guides sharing the rich cultural history of a landscape that is soon to be submerged due to the construction of Ilisu Dam. As the waters rise, space becomes limited and the village inhabitants are forced to move up into the hills. Ali and his friends climb a hill in search of a dry place to play football as Granny Cemile watches a grave go underwater along with the land she once knew. Demirtaş captures  awe-inspiring  views of the natural wonder, as well as our human ability to adapt  as the world changes beneath us.

In a Facets exclusive interview we spoke with filmmaker Hasan Demirtas to further deconstruct the elements of Tight Space:

Tight Space opens with a couple traveling to a mountainous town, and then it follows their young guide home, offering the audience a deeper look into their daily life than a typical tourist might experience. As a filmmaker, how did you work to insert outside audiences into a tight-knit community?

I am glad to hear that I inserted outside audiences into a tight knit community. I think firstly and immediately I had to show the beauty of the place because I was listening to my script’s spirit. As you know films are depends on scripts telling stories or opening shots etc. My goal was that, showing an unbelievable view then slowly losing the place… Unfortunately, this is truth the Turkish government has been building a dam over there and if we cannot stop the dam the place is going get lost.

The location feels almost like a protagonist in this film- much of the film is devoted to dialogue-free shots of the natural world, and the terrain often seems to dwarf the characters who occupy it. Where was this film shot, and how did this space inform your filmmaking process?

The place is located in Eastern Turkey which is Kurdish area. The place name is Hasankeyf. Hasankeyf means joy Hasan.  I was born nearby that town. When I was a child I went to Hasankeyf many times. So I already knew Hasankeyf very well. After I got accepted Istanbul Marmara University in western Turkey for a long time I did not go to my hometown because of school. When you are far from something this thing becomes mysterious to you. When I was living in my hometown I did not know I have such a nice hometown.  After many years, one day decided to go to Hasankeyf for fun. Then I saw many children were trying to tell the story of Hasankeyf. And after children earned humble money they spent their money on playing games etc. Then I told myself here is the conflict one the children are going to lose Hasankeyf and they will not be able to play any games anymore. Plus people will lose their properties.

Despite the attention lavished on the scenery, there seems to be a tension between the landscape of the film and its inhabitants- the water level rises, threatening local landmarks, family homes, and livestock. How do you see the interplay between humans and nature shaping your narrative?

First of all for that question I want to say that Hasankeyf is an extremely historical place. Hasan keyf is older than any places in the World.  We people sometimes forget about natural life. Hasankeyf includes a lot of important things. People’s life, animal’s life and plant’s life. I interplayed between humans and nature shaping by defending. Because even plants, have to protect themselves from threatening of people. That’s funny when the government’s workers tried to destroy Hasankeyf a worker could not control the water and they lost two cars because the water was very strong. So if you disturb somethings believe me the things will respond to you. I see natural life like a human being.

While the film doesn’t have an apparent protagonist, its closing sequence cuts between two journeys, as a group of children climb a mountain in search of higher ground to play on, and an old woman carries a stone up a hill. Do you see parallels between these two journeys?

Yes of course, I see parallels between the old woman and children’s journeys. They have the same aim surviving something…But they have a different problem. The old woman is going to lose an important grave to her and the children are going to lose their playgrounds. I am not exaggerating the government even does not respect people’s graves. Because there are many graves and all of them will disappear for the dam. And some people don’t know what they will do after the dam done. Because they are not going to only lose their properties they are also going to lose their graves, memories and such a nice historical place. Do we really need this dam? No, because there is another dam in Kurdish area called Ataturk dam. The Ataturk dam is not far from Hasankeyf but this project is not only having the dam. This project includes political situations.

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