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18th BFI Future Film Festival, 2024

"I would love there to be more affordable and accessible short film screenings across the UK, particularly in bigger cinemas so more people are exposed to them."

Please Be Happy is a Short Docu-Film exploring the varying relationship dynamics within three families on the intersection of parenthood and queerness. Taking the viewer into the intimate real-life environment of its subjects, the film challenges what we consider to be “traditional” family life.

Hi Elif, thank you for talking to TNC. How does it feel to have Please Be Happy part of this years BFI Future Film Festival?


It is really such an honour. I went to Future Film festival for the first time last year and was amazed by the selection of films. It feels like a full circle moment I am attending as one of the filmmakers this year. 


How important are festivals like Future Film Festival in creating a platform for short films and emerging filmmakers?


I think it is vital for young filmmakers to have opportunities like this as this could be the first acknowledgement, first push for them to continue what they do. Knowing that your work is seen from such an early stage in your career is extremely motivating.


What more can be done on a local/national level to offer short films more visibility to audiences outside of the festivals circuit?


I loved watching films growing up but before getting into making films, I wasn’t really aware of how many incredible short films are out there because it is usually not advertised as much as features. I would love there to be more affordable and accessible short film screenings across the UK, particularly in bigger cinemas so more people are exposed to them.

Can you tell me how Please Be Happy came about, what inspired your documentary short?


I grew up in a conservative city in Turkey where queer people having families is not an option - not even remotely. I once naively asked my school teacher - I must’ve been 12 or so, just coming in terms with my own sexuality - if they ever had a student who has queer parents. She just laughed at the “absurdity” of my question and said of course not, which influenced my thoughts on having my own family from a young age. I’ve been sitting with that interaction for quite some time and these kind of conversations were a big reason why I came to London in the first place. I wanted to make a film that could have been the representation I was looking for when I was younger, but also for younger queer folk who’s going through similar experiences right now. I wanted this film to show positive & healthy family dynamics as there is still a lot of prejudice about queer families.

When working on a documentary how much flexibility do you allow yourself with your



I am a big fan of the story finding itself through the process. The interviews felt like heartfelt conversations rather than a cold back and fourth between me and the subjects. I didn’t even want to put a name on this project as I wanted the name to be extracted from the interviews. Thanks to Ruth, who is the mother of our non-binary subject Jay, said in her last interview “Be yourself, enjoy and ultimately please be happy.” I thought that was the perfect summarising line of what I wanted to say, every healthy and functioning family should fundamentally want the same things for their kids and that is for them to be happy, whether they are queer or straight.


How did you develop your fly-on-the-wall technique?


I love building connections with my subjects before shoots and I shoot people I know a lot so unfamiliarity doesn’t get in the way on how I capture them. I was very careful to make these families comfortable as possible during the shoot days. We had a very small crew of 5 people and we were basically following them in their day to day activities. I wanted this film to feel almost like a memory, so it was important to me it felt real.


Our concept and understanding of the traditional nuclear family has changed significantly in the last 20 years but there is still a long way to go to see greater, real, representation of Queer lives/families on the big screen. What more can be done to change this and to create spaces for Queer narratives around families to grow?


I think having positive representation is key to tackling any kind of social injustice issue as peoples opinion get influenced massively by the media. As you said nuclear family ideal has already changed a lot in the last 20 years but there is still a lot of work to be done and a lot more stories to be shared that will help us move forward.


What’s been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken from making Please Be Happy?


My whole experience was a mixture of very intense emotions because I was also producing the film with my DOP Ailsa Aikoa. I was aware of every slight problem that was occurring during the production which is always stressful when you are directing it as well. Being a part of the whole process from pre to post production as the producer/director and editor, was definitely eye opening for me and made me understand how to make a film from step one, these were the technical lessons I really valued. From an emotional perspective I learned how to approach and communicate with people I want to interview and the importance of being as open and vulnerable as they are to you, I learned how to create that safe space for everyone to be comfortable.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

I was always interested in making little videos or sketches with my friends when I was younger and as I grow up I developed an interest in hearing peoples stories and documenting the life around me which naturally developed into filmmaking. I’ve noticed films - especially documentaries - have the power to change peoples minds about a certain topic, because they get to see real stories from real people. And you can platform what you truly think everyone should know about, I think that is really special.

"I would like to think Please Be Happy shows my interest in bending the structures of the documentary genre."

How much has your approach to your films changed/evolved since you started out, and what does Please Be Happy say about you as a filmmaker and the stories you want to tell in the future?


I find it super interesting to see the progress in my own work since I started out, the best way to evolve in making visuals is to keep creating and keep shooting. I have started my journey properly in pandemic so I had a lot of time to create projects with my friends with no expectations and a lot of experimentation. 

I would like to think Please Be Happy shows my interest in bending the structures of the documentary genre. I want my films to show basic human similarities we all have, also to be honest and through that be able to connect people that have absolutely nothing in common.


Is there any advice/tips you could offer a fellow filmmaker about to start their filmmaking journey?


My biggest tip would be to shoot passion projects, things they really care about because that passion translates from the screen. And find your crew, people who are like minded who has similar visions. 


And finally, what do you hope you audiences will take away from Please Be Happy?


I’d love this film to be a conversation starter about queer families and what makes a family.  There are still conversations about stripping back LGBTQ+ rights so I think it is important to remember what is at stake, the existence of these families. 

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