It is well known that the Turkish soap operas have millions of fanatic viewers in the Balkans, Middle East, North Africa and Asia. What remains unexplored is how these soap operas manage to penetrate the social and religious reality of Muslim women, especially in the Arab world; changing the way that women see themselves and supporting the debate on women’s rights.
This is the subject of journalist and director Nina Maria Paschalidou‘s new documentary entitled “Kismet,” which is competing in the International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA), from the 20th of November until 1st of December.
“Kismet” was filmed in Turkey, Egypt, the United Arabian Emirates, Bulgaria and Greece. The director was found at the backstage shooting of popular Turkish TV series; she discussed this phenomenon with famous actors, as well as speaking with female viewers about their identification with the heroines and their hope for emancipation.
In Cairo, for example, an activist woman who had been a victim of sexual abuse, stated that “Fatmagul” the TV series, breaks the taboos of openly discussing rape. Another woman from the United Arabian Emirates confesses that after this serial, she decided to divorce her husband, with whom she was forced to marry when she was a minor, says the director to AMNA.
Imams are not missing from the interviews of “Kismet”. The Imams stand against the Turkish serials and the new cultural model they promote. This is not accidental, as a tsunami of divorces has broken out in the Arab world after the Turkish serials. “In Egypt women are watching the TV series separately from men. These TV series speak openly and in the easiest way about matters of marriage, divorce, personal relationships, love,”,Nina Maria Paschalidou observes adding: “They are exported to more than 80 countries and now, after “Souleiman,” to even more. It is a fact that their new power in the TV industry has also helped the independent Turkish cinema, as there are some very popular actors who are appearing on the big screen.
In Greece, during the 60’s, the cinemas in the refugee districts were filled with people from Minor Asia who were rushing to see Hülya Koçyigit and Ediz Hun, the Turkish leading couple, who had a lot in common with Aliki Vougiouklaki and Dimitris Papamichael. It’s been 40 years since then.
What is it that attracts Greek women to Turkish soap operas today? “It’s partly a matter of fashion, but mostly that they broke a national taboo,”estimated the director, “In the movie we focus on a Turkish women who is married to a Greek, and learns Turkish from watching soap operas, while a Greek woman of the Minor Asia origin, is influenced by the “Souleiman” TV series.”
“Kismet” is a co-production of Forest Troop and the company Anemon in cooperation with Arte, ERT, Al Jazeera and other channels. This is the second movie by Nina Maria Paschalidou, to participate in the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. The previous was “Prism: Crisis Greece 2011”, a movie cosigned with Nikos Katsaounis.