“I wanted the film to create a discussion about what is good and evil, our daily moral issues and the sacred things which were already alienated”- Emine Emel Balci

Emine Emel Balci was born in Turkey. She holds a degree in cinema and television from the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul. After working as an assistant director and screenwriter, she made her first short documentary in 2007. In 2011, Emine Emel Balci took part in the Berlinale Talent Campus. Her first feature film Until I Lose my Breath or Nefesim Kesilene Kadar was screened at the Kolkata International Film festival. (Synopsis -Serap, a young woman whose mother is no longer around, works in a textile factory in Istanbul. She longs for her father, a lorry driver, to finally make good on his promise and rent a flat for the two of them. In the meantime, she lives with her sister and her husband. She does everything she can to make sure her wish comes true, saving her wages for her father and allowing herself nothing. Her stubborn perseverance almost reverses the standard parent-child relationship. The daughter is the one who cares and provides, looking after her father and giving him money. She chooses to ignore the fact that he always comes up with new excuses and lies and rejects the more realistic picture that her sister paints of him. Although the camera is always with Serap, we only get to know her and her life gradually, as well as how far she is prepared to go for her wish).

How did your tryst with Film making happen?

I was doing documentary films and I was doing some research in the textile areas. I was planning to make a documentary film of that area. I was also into making women stories before I worked with short films and documentaries. There are lots of women working in the textile areas in Turkey So; I tried to combine the two ideas of making a film about women and industrial area film.

How do you see the present scenario of female filmmaker in Turkey?

In my generation I think there are lots of young female filmmakers who are coming into the film industry with new voices. But of course, there aren’t as many female filmmakers compared to the male filmmakers. But if we keep on going making women stories and try to tell about or discuss about women’s issues in life, it will increase the number of female filmmakers as a whole; it will bring improvement.  

What kind of issues are the filmmakers addressing in Turkey?

Mostly it’s about family. Family issues, nowadays, in new Turkish cinema is a popular issue amongst the independent filmmakers. Since it's a bleeding issue, family relationship and its crookedness are one of the main topics.  

What kinds of issues attract you while you choose to make a film?

There isn’t any specific plan.. Since I know the conflicts and details of women’s life much better than any other things, my main goal is to have strong women’s characters in my films- strong women’s presence. But of course, there are many other issues and themes which also interest me. 

Did any women inspire you?

Many women have inspired me. There is no specific woman who has inspired me in this profession. May be the character in the film is the sum of the all of the women I have known before.

Until I Lose My Breath - Movie Stills
Have you ever faced any kind of discrimination?

You can live with it everywhere in different shapes. It can’t be all the time in a form of physical discrimination or just emotionally. Sometimes you can just feel it. It does not depend who you are or what education background you came from or from which place you come from. I think it is the problem of the system itself. It obviously says man is more important than female, it’s not a very welcoming place for the women.

What has been the most memorable moment for you in this film? 

I think the most interesting moment comes at the end of the film.  The ending was not like it was in the script and in the shooting I discovered that I felt the story comes to an end. It was interesting that end the main character of the film becomes real. It was really interesting for me to witness this.

Your word of advice for aspiring female filmmakers?

Keep working and working! Work until you lose breath. 

What prompted you to make Until I Lose My Breath?

There are personal references in the film, but, also I feel an urge to talk the about issues primarily concern women. While writing the script, I was thinking about the dark side of the loneliness and how it can affect your life and choices; I wanted the film to create a discussion about what is good and evil, our daily moral issues and the sacred things which were already alienated. 

Did you face any challenge while shooting this film?

We made the film in four and a half weeks time and with a small crew, we were challenging the difficulties of making a film in Istanbul streets and chaotic industrial areas with a shoulder held camera. We were chasing the time and running from here to there all the time, which was very tiring for all of us. 

Emine Emel Balci
 the Kolkata International Film Festival 
What do you want your audience to take away from this film?

I would like them to stop and pause after all the chaos and breathlessness of the story and think about what has happened to Serap and what we do to each other.  I think Serap does this in the end shot of the film and decides what will be the next after all. After the film finishes and the lights are on; I would like the audiences think about the same without judging her. 

Any plans to explore the social theme in an upcoming movie, what are the future plans?

I guess I need some time to refresh myself and think about for the next, too. 

How was your experience at the Kolkata international Film festival 2015?

Before coming here we didn’t know we would get to watch so many movies and meet wonderful audience. Film festivals are very important. For instance, you are doing a film in Istanbul and you are screening it in Kolkata for a different kind of audience.  It is nice to see they understand and feel attached to the movie. Audiences were asking us about our culture and the protagonist of the film whom they can empathize.

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