Almost forty years have passed after the closure of the Sinematek Association, but its spirit of film preservation lives on through Kadıköy municipality’s new Cinema House project.

By Işıl İlkter

Watching a film is like taking a personal journey, often we see our image in the faces of the characters. A rollercoaster of emotions and events that takes us along for the ride, cinema has been an inseparable part of our collective culture for over a century. But film culture is now endangered by the rise of streaming services. 

It makes the work by Kadıköy municipality’s Sinematek/Cinema House project of preserving film culture ever more important. The project, launched in 2018, aims to enrich the cultural scene in Turkey by reflecting and preserving the diversity of film culture. 

The idea of film preservation in Turkey started in 1965 with Turkish Cinematheque Association (Sinematek), established by a group of film enthusiasts and intellectuals including Onat Kutlar, Şakir Eczacıbaşı, and Jak Şalom. Over just fifteen years, Sinematek became a legend in Turkey’s cultural scene.

Jak Şalom

Jak Şalom, who worked at Sinematek Association for seven years, is now the project manager and designer at the new Sinematek/Cinema House. Current chapter in project’s history began with Jak Şalom’s suggestion to arrange a screening series titled “Sinematek is Alive!” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Sinematek Association and the 20th anniversary of Onat Kutlar’s passing. Fifty films were presented by fifty distinguished artists and intellectuals; alternative cinema, world classics, and a few modern films. 

Şalom emphasizes that the tradition of presenting films to the audience before the screenings was essential at Sinematek. “Cinema is not something to merely consume and to forget about it later,” says Şalom told The Guide Istanbul. “It is a reflection of life itself.”

Sinematek reborn

Following popular demand, Kadıköy municipality presented a project draft for a new Sinematek building to Şalom. “It is crucially important that the municipality initiated it as a public project because it will last for a long period,” emphasises Şalom.

Sinematek aims to create its own collection featuring film stocks as well as items related to cinema such as props, costumes, and posters. “We should treat film stocks with the utmost care since they are a part of our cultural heritage,” Şalom explains. 

Onat Kutlar, Hüseyin Baş, Jak Şalom, 1967

Also, displaying eccentric items related to films will challenge the audience to see the films on different levels. “It is not a matter of a film but a matter of cinema,” says Jak Şalom. “The film may not speak to the audience on its own, but having an insight about details in the film can help opening the drawers of the film.” 

Although the construction of the building is ongoing, Sinematek has already started arranging screenings at other venues in collaboration with its partners with a retrospective of Agnès Varda films, and it has hosted Ingmar Bergman, Vittorio De Sica, and Wim Wenders screenings.

When completed, Sinematek/Cinema House will feature a film theater, an exhibition area, two cafés, and private screening corners. The venue will also serve as a creative and research hub for film students, film crews, and enthusiasts.

By preserving the past and enriching the future of cinema, the Sinematek/Cinema House project hopes to stoke intellectual debate on cinema. “Sinematek aims not to replace mainstream cinema, but to spread cinema culture in Turkey,” emphasizes Şalom.

For program details, visit www.sinematek.kadikoy.bel.tr.


Alternative cinema in Istanbul

Kundura Cinema

Cinema enthusiasts who search for well-curated screening programs in Istanbul can also look into the following projects:

  • Mithat Alam Film Center—established at Bosphorus University from a private collection of a prominent Turkish businessman.
  • Kundura Sinema—the newly restored film theater located at the Beykoz Kundura complex.
  • Başka Sinema—the cinema project established by Başka Sinema Distribution and Kariyo & Ababay Foundation.