Notes on Istanbul (2013) 30 minutes. HDV. Documentary/Essay Film. (English)

In this film, I explore the filmmaker as tourist, my interaction with the landscape of Istanbul: political and cultural. How do I read Istanbul? How do I as an Indian, as a woman, as a tourist, interact with this space? What do I choose to capture and why?

This film was produced as a part of ‘Film Lab- Exploring the Other’- a collaboration programme between the Valand Academy and Centre for Film and Drama’s Suchitra School of Cinema and Dramatic Arts, Bangalore with the support of Region Västra Götaland’s Cultural Committee and the Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts at the University of Gothenburg.

Reflections on ‘Notes On Istanbul’ – Shilpa Munikempanna

The two weeks I spent in Istanbul has helped me grasp and concretize a few things
about my practice as a filmmaker. Coming from a narrative background, shooting
randomly was never my approach, rather writing my thoughts to be mulled over in
another time and space was more my way of making films. The camera as an
extension of myself was at times tedious; at times I did not want to shoot. I did not
want to capture each and everything I saw. When looking at the edit, I feel my best
shots or shots that explain my views of Istanbul/Images/Image‐making are the
shots when I was completely relaxed and so was the camera. What came into the
frame I did not anticipate, I did not look for, and yet they came.

While editing the film ‘My Istanbul’, I went back to my thoughts that I had scribbled
in my notebook. Some I have mentioned in the film, others I have not. I went back to
the three questions I had asked at the beginning of the workshop. They got lost
somewhere during the time I spent there but they somehow resurfaced when I tried
to recall my initial frame of mind. I wanted through my film ‘Notes on Istanbul’ to
experience the journey that I had been through, the growth and change that any new
experience brings forth. I have found rather than changing me, it has made me hold
on more rigidly to my beliefs/thoughts. I felt the experiences there sort of
reaffirmed what I had already known and made it stronger. For instance, the
excursion to the Roma community, which when turning the gaze on the tourist, gave
me an amazing opportunity to capture what I felt ethically wrong about the
filmmaker as tourist; why and what made me uncomfortable and the instant ability
to draw parallels with my own country with reference to the slum tours in Dharavi.
And on the other extreme of the continuum was meeting a friend I hadn’t seen in five
years, to spend time, conversing about her life, her music, her films, my life, my
plans and my work. Capturing her and her family on the camera was a delight. I
couldn’t have asked for a better life affirming moment than this.

I end with that I am not a tourist and never will be. I don’t respect the values a
tourist brings to a country; again the haphazard grazing at the surface is not my way
of experiencing a country. Time and a genuine curiosity with ethics that speak of
humility, these are the cornerstones of my practice as a filmmaker.