The young Turkish director, Selcen Ergun, came to the 51st FEST with her full-length debut ‘Snow and the Bear’, which is a co-production between Turkey, Germany and Serbia and is
shown in the Main Competition Programme. The film is about a young nurse who gets transferred to a small traditional environment somewhere in the interior of Turkey, where the
biggest problem of the gendarmerie is a colony of bats. However, when one of the townspeople disappears, a tangle of assumptions, intrigues and gossip stirs up the spirits in the small town.
According to the director of ‘Snow and the Bear’, the story has similarities to Serbian culture as to any other culture. Selcen Ergun talks about her feature film debut for the FEST website.
‘As artists do not like to demystify what they do and to specify, I am reluctant to do so as well, but the bear in the film symbolizes the fear that is created, that is imposed on us. That fear that unites people in a small environment on the one hand, but keeps them on alert on the other. Even states create situations of fear that ultimately unite people, and that imposed fear changes from day to day and can be anything, another country, a national minority, sometimes a specific problem. That common enemy soon becomes the subject of the story, people gather around a common idea. I liked that in the film, as a starting point for the plot, people talk about an aggressive beast that can attack them. However, when the main character meets a bear in the forest, he is not like the rumored enemy. They look at each other and the bear goes on his way.
Now this is going to be a spoiler, but, in the end, the bear is actually the scapegoat in this film. He is the one they can blame for everything’, she said.
Your protagonist does not only struggle with an unpleasant environment during the film?
- During the film, the protagonist struggles with her personal fears, while she tries to be independent, she always tries to be brave. In addition to the problems that she faces in the
unfamiliar environment which she accepts, even though she did not find herself in it of her own free will, she also opposes her family. They offer her an easier way out; they offer a way to get her out of the little out-of-the-way place she got that transfer to. But she decides to stay and do her job, to do the right thing, to persevere and fight for success at work on her own. Although she encounters various antagonisms at every turn, she is determined to persevere and do the right thing.
Is the film a Serbian co-production as well?
- When Miloš (Ivanović) read the script, he thought that my film was a story that could be accepted in Serbia as well, because he saw some cultural similarities, but I believe that it is a
story that is universal. Even the name of the place in Turkey where the film takes place is made up. This film is actually an anti-fairy tale with no ‘and they lived happily ever after’. The villag iitself, where the film takes place, can be anywhere in Turkey, anywhere in Serbia, anywhere in the world.
You depict women in a traditional environment very faithfully?
- I love that part in the film. I grew up in Ankara, but when I was a child, I would go to my grandmother's village every year for three months. I saw all those details that give the story authenticity. I grew up in my grandmother's village with women gossiping about their husbands, looking at the cup and the like. And it is like a way of resistance to the patriarchal environment. And there is that girl who is not yet mature enough to leave home, but dreams of breaking free from the shackles of a small environment and going somewhere. They all live in a conservative environment, but have built their own resilience system.
You say that ‘Snow and the Bear’ is an anti-fairy tale. No way out for your protagonist
- I want to think that she chose to do the right thing too. The film ends, which is why we do not know if she chose the easy way to hide behind the ‘scapegoat’ in this film or to come out with a clear conscience. But I leave that to the viewers. I want to believe that she chose the right path.
As you said, professionals from Serbia were responsible for the sound in the film?
- Yes, the entire sound crew is from Serbia, and from the first day they came to the set, it was clear that they enjoyed what they do, even though the weather conditions and winter were not pleasant. I am satisfied, they did everything exactly as I expected.
What are you working on between going to festivals?
- I am preparing a new script for which I would like it to be a co-production again because the story is also universal and maybe Serbia will be involved again in some way.