“Revolution on set!
Write it, the world must know!” smiles Burcu Biricik, slipping behind the director.
The same man who allegedly stole her lighter – hence her revolt – when she only has a few minutes to smoke a cigarette before the next take.
In a bathrobe and slippers, this 33-year-old actress sneaks into the tiny improvised control room: stools, a table and three screens gathered on a few square meters of lawn in front of a large family home.
All around, a crowd of technicians, and a dozen trucks invading the adjacent street.
We are on November 13, northeast of Istanbul, on the set of
The Girl in the Glass
), a series broadcast since 2021 on the Kanal D channel. We follow the life of Nalan, camped by Burcu Biricik, between love intrigues and family secrets.
In video, Mustang "I wanted to show what it is to be a woman in Turkey"
But we come to meet her for another role, a real revolution this one: the main character of the excellent Netflix series
The Shadow of Fatma
The protagonist, a poor cleaning lady who left her village in Anatolia for a sticky suburb of Istanbul, loses her child, hit by a car, and looks everywhere for her missing husband, who has in fact abandoned her.
Invisible, despised and mistreated by men, Fatma gradually turns into a cold and determined serial killer.
“This series speaks above all about violence and male domination, as they exist throughout the world”, immediately sums up Burcu Biricik, seated in her dressing room.
Smiling and concentrated, she barely touches the steaming soup in front of her – it's her lunch break –, plants her eyes in ours, weighs her words.
“I grew up in a small village, surrounded by women like Fatma, and I witnessed men's violence.
It helped me embody it,
Report: Turkey emancipation in series
In images, in pictures
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Like her, more and more actresses, but also screenwriters, directors and producers, embody or stage explosive female characters.
Rebellious women, as in
L'Ombre de Fatma
But also executives, powerful and ultra-glamorous journalists, all financially independent, who drink a glass of wine in the evening on their way home, and can also leave their husbands.
These roles represent a hell of a risk in a country where women, their bodies and their rights are now the subject of fierce battles.
The Turkish republic, founded a hundred years ago on strict secularism, has been governed for twenty years by the AKP, the Islamoconservative party of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Which has been sinking for several years in an authoritarian drift, of which women are among the first victims.
In today's Turkey, portraying a housekeeper who murders men on a chain or a business executive who decides to divorce is a matter of political engagement.
“Getting such a role is a blessing for me who defends the rights of women, sweeps Burcu Biricik.
We get few, because there are few of them!
The actresses Burcu Biricik (right) and Nur Sürer on the set of the Turkish series Camdaki Kız, in Istanbul, in November 2022. Marie Tihon
They impose themselves despite everything and gain in visibility thanks to the explosion of digital platforms.
Netflix, Blu TV or Disney+, the latest arrival in Turkey, are attracting women in the sector en masse.
Firstly because they offer a more sustainable work rhythm than on television.
We shoot 100 TV series here a year, each episode of which lasts two hours, to maximize advertising revenue, and requires five days of shooting.
An infernal rhythm, which benefits producers and channel bosses, new kings of oil that flows freely.
"Almost all men, while this industry has many women," smiles Gila Kantar.
This 51-year-old entrepreneur created in 2008, with her brother, Global Agency, a distribution company responsible for selling internationally the rights of
programs and, above all, series, which represent 70% of their turnover.
Prepared, precise, she straightens a lock of blond hair and lists the biggest successes of her hunting board:
), distributed in 80 countries,
The Magnificent Century
), in 100 countries… “The export of series brings in 600 million dollars a year for Turkey, which is aiming for 1 billion in the next few years” , she continues.
Clearly, Turkish series have conquered the world, especially thanks to narrative frameworks supposed to guarantee massive audiences.
Stories reproduced endlessly, and as quickly as possible, to maximize earnings.
This industry is a brakeless truck rolling down the hills of Istanbul straight to the Black Sea
Defne Kayalar, actress
Digital puff of air
“Producers burn everyone out and kill creativity.
This industry is a truck without brakes that hurtles down the hills of Istanbul straight towards the Black Sea,” asserts Defne Kayalar, seated on the sunny terrace of the Sofitel Taksim.
Became an actress almost by chance at the age of 35, she is, twelve years later, a recognized performer.
She is one of those who have left television, which is more profitable, for online platforms and theater, with denser and less stereotyped female roles.
The Wings of Ambition
), on Netflix.
Lale Kıran, star presenter of a current affairs program, is harassed there by a fanatical student ready to do anything to take her place.
Defne Kayalar plays Gül Simin, the very elegant, cold and calculating general manager of the channel.
"Reading the script, I said to myself: 'Oh, I know this woman,' she says with a burst of laughter.
When I started out as a screenwriter and producer, I rubbed shoulders with a lot of brilliant female leaders, who became dragons to survive in a world of men.
Like them, Gül can be tough, but that's nothing personal.
It's just business."
Which is not nothing, in a country where the employment of women is precarious.
In 2021, they represented only 32.5% of the working population, according to the World Bank.
Turks, like all women, have many other concerns that we should tell!
Society evolves, scenarios should follow.
Irem Sak, actress
In this context, interpreting a CEO also amounts to offering a role model to young Turkish women who are desperate or tempted to emigrate – and there are many of them.
“Above all, I want to carry the voice of those I embody, whoever they are, powerful or not, nuance Defne Kayalar.
First, because power does not only reside in money or the position one occupies.
But also because understanding and recounting the intimacy and the psyche of a fragile, broken woman, makes it possible to denounce what she undergoes.
This matters all the more in a country where it is difficult to talk about violence against women.
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Even before choosing their roles, these women set an example through their own paths.
Many fought, without training or network, to have their share of the cake.
“Apart from the high school theater club, I had nothing,” smiles Irem Sak, 36, in the Mandarin Oriental tea room, on the edge of the Bosphorus.
Originally from Sivas, a medium-sized city in central Anatolia, she arrived as a student in Istanbul.
On CV, she joins an important municipal theater where all the cream of the industry throng, including Birce Akalay.
This absolute star, also creator of a jewelry brand, embodies the star presenter of Kus Uçusu, where Irem Sak camps, she, Müge Türkmen, best friend of the heroine and editor-in-chief of her show.
But it is to Çukur, a series on the mafia, that Irem Sak owes his fame.
From television, she keeps the memory of four years of exhausting filming and secondary female roles, reduced to endless love intrigues.
“Turkish series are mostly about love between rich and poor, disputes between mother-in-law and daughter, marriage or adultery.
But the Turks, like all women, have many other concerns that we should tell!
Society evolves, scenarios should follow.”
Tired of waiting for the perfect script, the actress decided to write it herself.
Irem Sak has just completed post-production of
, it can't be invented), which will soon appear on an online platform, and in which she has taken on the title role.
"A character at the end of her thirties, whom her relatives urge to find a husband but who prefers to follow her dreams and go to meet herself," she sums up with a smile.
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come out of the silence
Fighting to tell what others cannot, or no longer want to show: this is the responsibility that these women take on when they choose this career.
Their courage impresses, as they dig the breaches that a certain Turkey would like to fill at all costs.
As in 2020, with
), an eight-episode Netflix miniseries.
Defne Kayalar, again, plays Peri, a bourgeois and austere psychologist from the beautiful districts of Istanbul, shaken by her meeting with Meryem, a new patient, veiled, pious and modest.
The urban and secular elite facing the popular and rural Muslim classes.
“Peri thinks of herself as open, modern, when in fact she is the more conservative of the two,” explains her interpreter.
This mise-en-abîme of the tensions that cross the country met with phenomenal success, and sparked debates of an unprecedented magnitude.
"Caught in a vice between Western and Middle Eastern values, Turkey does not always know where to look," says in perfect French Nisan Ceren, 41, producer of the series, best known as a pioneer in theatrical production.
I was sent scripts where women are stereotyped, beaten, abused, continues Asude Kalebek.
I will always refuse to embody these roles, no matter the money or the notoriety that they would bring me
Asude Kalebek, actress
Perhaps Turkey should look more inward and into its history.
This is what the series
) tackles, still on Netflix, which pushes the transgression even further.
Inspired by the family history of Rana Denizer, one of the screenwriters, it tells the life of Jewish Turks, and descendants of Armenians or Greeks in the 1950s and 1960s, a period marked by pogroms of rare violence. , but no one talks about it.
The two main characters of
are women: Matilda, a Jewess imprisoned and forced to entrust her daughter to an orphanage, and this one, Raşel, 17 years old.
"Raşel is not afraid of anything, she dares everything, precisely because she ignores everything about the world and social norms", summarizes Asude Kalebek, her interpreter.
Shy smile, soft voice, precision of words: everything distinguishes this 23-year-old actress from her character, all fired up.
With this role, the first of her life, the foreign language student made a sensational entry into the series industry.
“Zeynep Günay Tan, the co-director of
, saw a light in me.
And changed my life.
On the set, she often brought us together as women to encourage us with “Girl power!”
She was a great mentor.”
Asude Kalebek makes her acting debut with one of the main roles in the series
A precious sorority, especially for this young generation which, if it wants to get out of silences and prohibitions, sometimes struggles to find the energy and the weapons to fight and make its voice heard.
Asude Kalebek herself dreams of writing and directing, of bringing to the screen the subjects that matter to her, such as mental health – hers is sometimes fragile, she hints at us.
But, washed out by the filming of the two seasons of
, she first takes the time to breathe.
In an industry that has its codes and its red lines, the women of her age that we met begin by defining their own.
And try to build their careers accordingly.
, I was sent scripts where women are stereotyped, beaten, abused, continues Asude Kalebek.
I will always refuse to embody these roles, no matter how much money or notoriety they would bring me.
These clear-cut choices impose themselves even on the most famous, who one would think are untouchable.
Like Ece Yörenç, recognized screenwriter.
This smiling sixty-year-old welcomes us to her apartment in the wealthy neighborhood of Bebek.
"I want to focus on the positive," she says as we sit in the living room, in front of the bay window with a view of the Bosphorus, and a housekeeper serves tea.
Ece Yörenç refers to his obligation to broadcast his series abroad.
Because even online, freedom has its limits.
Ece Yörenç's latest Turkish creation, written for Netflix and supposed to be called If Only, has been banned from filming due to the presence of an ultimate taboo homosexual couple.
Netflix and Ece Yörenç could have removed these secondary characters.
They preferred to produce the series in Spain,
Si lo hubiera sabido
(If I had known).
Our country is going through great suffering that we are just beginning to tell.
This is just the beginning
Ece Yörenç, screenwriter
Twelve years earlier, already, the screenwriter adapted in the same country
Fatmagül'ün suçu ne?
What is Fatmagül's fault?
), originally produced for a Turkish channel.
Taken from a novel, the series recounts and shows, crudely, the collective rape of Fatmagül, then his quest for justice.
A huge success, in Turkey and abroad, which nevertheless earned Ece Yörenç harsh criticism.
“At the time, an AKP deputy (the ruling presidential party, editor’s note) took the floor in the Assembly to treat screenwriters as mentally ill, she recalls.
I filed a complaint, but the court closed the case.
Looking back, the 2010s heralded the current decade.”
In the meantime, the attacks and the failed coup attempt in 2016, the memory of which was revived by the bomb attack of November 13, gave the Turkish president all the legitimacy to harden his power.
And extend that of RTÜK, the
Widespread self-censorship and creative brain drain to digital platforms.
Precious, these bubbles of freedom – paying, all the same – remain reserved for the urban elites.
Hence the risk of increased cultural and ideological polarization in an already hypertensive climate.
With the approach of the presidential and legislative elections next June, social issues are becoming flammable.
And the series, a political and electoral battlefield.
What future for them?
And for those who create them?
“I know what I wish for myself, replies Ece Yörenç: to be broadcast on HBO and Netflix US!
And I hope that Turkey will soon be able to write and direct all the stories it imagines.
Our country is going through great suffering that we are just beginning to tell.