CÜNEYT KARAAHMETOĞLU FITS FOURS SEASONS IN ISTANBUL, AS SEEN FROM SINAN’S MINARETS INTO 16 MINUTES.
How did the project 5 Centuries Later 4 Seasons in Istanbul from Sinan’s Minarets come about?
After I graduated from college and came to Istanbul, whenever I looked at the Historical Peninsula or took a walk around the city walls, I always wondered how the city would look from the minarets. I gained experience by taking time-lapse videos at various spots in Istanbul. One day as I was shooting the Historical Peninsula from the heights of the Salacak district, I wanted instead to be able to shoot from the minaret of Sinan Paşa Mosque, which has an incredible view. That moment was when the idea for a project of a time-lapse video from the minarets of Istanbul came to me.
Why did you prefer Mimar (Architect) Sinan’s works?
I’ve always been very fond of Mimar Sinan, since reading about his works in schoolbooks or seeing them in Manisa, where I went to primary school. My interest grew deeper when I discovered the map that divides Istanbul into six different routes according to Sinan’s works (prepared by the Çekül Foundation as part of the 'Respect for Sinan' project). Today I still think that the city belongs to Sinan, even after five centuries.
What did you do before you start the project 5 Centuries Later 4 Seasons in Istanbul from Sinan’s Minarets?
I worked as a cameraman for movies and advertisements for 7 years. I shot two short films named “Tek Başına” (“Alone” and “Brakeman”) which received many awards. Both of my films have loneliness at their focus but the subject matters are very different.
Why did you choose loneliness as a theme?
I’m obsessed with professions. When I learned about the road watchmen, about a thousand people who earn their lives walking 23km, I wanted to shed a light on their lives. I wanted to feel what they felt by walking with them before the shooting. It’s a monotonous and lonely life.
How did shooting go? How long did it take?
The whole project took about two and a half years. Throughout the 12-month shoot, I lived my whole life according to the weather. Almost every day I got up one hour before the morning prayer to check the weather report. Sometimes, the weather would radically change during the day. I would take my ready-packed backpack, choose a mosque according to the position of the sun, the speed and volume of the clouds and the direction of the wind and shoot. For a whole year, I had access to all the minarets. I shot from 28 minarets in 20 mosques in total. I’d hit the road with a 37kg pack on my back. Usually in order to get a shot of 12 seconds, I stayed at a minaret for one hour minimum and seven hours maximum. I even once went to four mosques in one day.
In which season and where did you start the shootings?
Parallel to the chronological order in the movie, I started shooting in summer. I shot the trailer at the Süleymaniye Mosque. I climbed more than 250 steps to the three-balcony minaret called “Cevahir” (“Jewelry”). I feel different from every people living in Istanbul thanks to the view I saw before me and all other things I witnesses throughout the project. I spent the whole day there and shot a trailer describing 4 seasons form four different angles. There had been days in winter when I had to climb up and down the stairs to the minaret just to keep myself warm. The hardest and the most pleasant part for me was the winter shooting.
Why is the name of the project 5 Centuries Later?
A correspondent named Andrew Ferren penned an article about Mimar Sinan for the New York Times. While he was describing the way back from Edirne, where they went to see the Selimiye Mosque, to Istanbul, he said, “We’re back to the city which still belongs to Sinan five centuries later.” When you really look at the city or walk its streets, you can easily think that the city still belongs to Sinan, and the fact that this duration was five centuries made it much more meaningful. The second thing I though was to follow four seasons in Istanbul through Mimar Sinan’s works. Today when I look back on those times, I wonder if I’ll ever work for a project which will be this peaceful to shoot.
The movie also has a story – the black clouds coming in with the autumn start to leave as the spring arrives. Can you talk about the writing process?
Before constructing the story, we had to decide on the music. We wanted spring to have the calmest music and the winter to have the most energetic. So the music came before the writing, not the other way around. The music was performed by Bratislava Symphony Orchestra. In the production of the music, we used the lute (a Turkic instrument from Central Asia), the Istanbul kemancha, which I learned thanks to Derya Türkan, and the duduk, an Armenian instrument, which was played by Ertan Tekin in the film. Towards the end of the project, we thought that e-bow, with which Erkan Oğur could produce a sound familiar to that of a reed flute, would work very well for spring.
Who did you work with for this project?
I did most of the shooting myself. Can Erdoğan composed the film music, and the colorist was Selim Söğüt. I completed the project, which was shot with 4K resolution, with the sponsorships of Turkish Airlines and Sony.