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19th ÉCU Film Festival, Paris

"...I believe that every decision and challenge encountered during the filmmaking process contributes to the overall growth and learning experience."

Festival Screening:


April 17, 2024  

“Harvest of Light" is a documentary supported by European Union CultureCIVIC: Grassroots Projects Grants, portraying the lives of seasonal workers from Urfa, Hatay, and Adana in Ankara's Evren district. Coming to the Turkish capital for the onion harvest, these families grapple with challenges illuminated by a metaphorical beacon of hope — a generator operating for just 2 hours daily. In this short period, the workers tell their stories amidst the chaos of labor, perseverance, and the struggle to catch up with life.

Hi Esin, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current. Are you looking forward to screening Harvest of Light at ÉCU this year?

Hi, thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase ‘Harvest of Light’ at ÉCU. It's always a special moment to share the film with audiences and engage in discussions about the themes it explores. Additionally, I'm excited to announce that this screening will mark the world premiere of 'Harvest of Light,' making it an even more significant event for us.


Will you be adding any more postcards from Paris to your collection?

Definitely! Paris is such an inspiring city, and I always find myself captivated by its beauty. I'm sure there will be plenty of moments during the festival to capture and cherish. Paris m'attend!


Are there any nerves ahead of your screening in Paris?

I'm looking forward to the opportunity to connect with fellow filmmakers and audiences who share a passion for independent cinema. Additionally, knowing that this screening marks the world premiere of 'Harvest of Light' adds excitement to the experience.


How important are festivals like ÉCU in continuing to champion and supporting independent films and filmmakers?

Festivals like ÉCU play a crucial role in providing a platform for independent filmmakers to showcase their work and connect with audiences. They provide invaluable exposure and recognition for films that might not otherwise receive mainstream attention, fostering a diverse and vibrant filmmaking community.


Can you tell me a little bit about how Harvest of Light came about, what was it about the lives and stories of the onion workers in Evren that inspired you to make this documentary?

The concept for 'Harvest of Light' emerged during a discussion with my director of photography. Some years earlier, during one of his trips to Evren for a separate project, he informed me over the phone about the astonishing reality of a generator in the harvest area running for only 1-2 hours a day. This information deeply affected me, prompting an immediate response. Without hesitation, I penned a synopsis and shared it with him. The title 'Harvest of Light' had already sprung to my mind, and he embraced the concept wholeheartedly. Together, we decided to pursue the creation of a documentary centered around this compelling narrative.


When working on a short like this what are the biggest challenges you face?

We encountered several significant challenges. One of the main hurdles was convincing the women workers to participate in the project. There are strict cultural norms that they are bound by, making it difficult for them to readily engage with outsiders. It took numerous heartfelt conversations and efforts to convey the sincerity of our project before they felt comfortable enough to be a part of it. Being a woman filmmaker within the field had its advantages in terms of building trust and rapport with the women.

Additionally, the physical conditions posed another formidable challenge. The workers woke up very early in the morning to head to the onion fields for harvesting, and the cold weather made it even more taxing. Furthermore, the lack of basic facilities such as toilets in the vast fields meant we had to endure discomfort throughout the day, limiting our water intake until we returned to the hotel late in the evening. Despite these obstacles, our commitment to capturing their stories remained unwavering.


How important is it for you to have a level of flexibility with your film once you start shooting?

Flexibility is crucial in documentary filmmaking, as it allows for organic storytelling and the ability to adapt to unexpected developments. Being open to new perspectives and opportunities often leads to richer and more authentic narratives.


How much did the experience making Mysterious East: Tajikistan help prepare you for making Harvest of Light?

The experience of working on 'Mysterious East: Tajikistan' was instrumental in preparing me for 'Harvest of Light.' During the project, I worked with almost the same team, particularly my director of photography and editor. This continuity provided us with a wealth of experience working together, which proved invaluable when embarking on 'Harvest of Light.' It facilitated seamless communication, streamlined workflows, and a shared understanding of our creative vision, ultimately enhancing the quality and efficiency of the filmmaking process.


Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?

Looking back, there are always aspects of a film that one might approach differently. However, I believe that every decision and challenge encountered during the filmmaking process contributes to the overall growth and learning experience. I am so satisfied with the result, but maybe if we had more budget, we could have afforded an extra 3-4 days for shooting, especially considering the cold and harsh conditions within the field. This would have provided the crew with additional time to work more comfortably. Nevertheless, we survived as we always do, overcoming challenges and delivering a film we're proud of.


Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

Communication has always been a strength of mine, and I've consistently used it to convey the human experience. I'm inherently drawn to human stories, and I believe in the power of cinema to capture these narratives and connect with audiences on a profound level.


Was there any one film you saw growing up that lite the filmmaker spark in you?

I've always had an appreciation for cinema, but my passion for documentaries developed more after watching films like 'Searching for Sugar Man' and 'The Act of Killing.' These documentaries demonstrated the power of non-fiction storytelling and the profound impact it can have on audiences. They inspired me to explore the world of documentary filmmaking and harness its potential to shed light on important issues and capture the complexities of human experience.


You’re the founder of ArtEA Productions, when did you realise you wanted to create your own production company?

After dedicating 15 years to my work at TRT, the national broadcasting company in Turkey, I realized the need to create a platform where I could pursue my passion for impactful storytelling on social and cultural issues. In 2023, I founded ArtEA Productions with this vision in mind. ArtEA Productions allows me to focus on bringing attention to important issues, both in Turkey and around the world, through the medium of film. It's a continuation of my commitment to using storytelling as a tool for positive change and raising awareness.


What other themes and subjects are you hoping to explore with future films?

I'm passionate about exploring a wide range of themes and subjects in my future films, from social justice issues and environmental sustainability to the complexities of human relationships and cultural identity.


Is there any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

My advice to fellow filmmakers would be to stay true to your artistic vision, embrace the journey of filmmaking with an open mind and heart, and always recognize the power of collaboration and perseverance.


And finally, what is the message you would like your audiences to take from Harvest of Light?

Above all, I hope that 'Harvest of Light' inspires audiences to take action toward creating a more just and equitable society. Perhaps it's a lot to ask, or perhaps not. Still, I also hope everyone who sees this documentary can reassess their consumption habits and think about the products that come into their homes, acknowledging the severe labor behind them.

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