The Geist of Turkey

Anson Ching

I’m told that there are many ways to get familiar with Turkish culture, other than through its sweet delights, kebabs, and coffee. You might binge on Ottoman costume dramas or telenovelas, leaf through translations from its prolific literary and poetry scene, or even attune yourself to vowel harmonization in Turkish rap. You could also go to Turkey—browse the carpet stalls of Istanbul, and take in the Bosporus by playing passenger on the world’s largest commuter ferry fleet. What I recommend, though, above all else, is to go on Netflix, put on Ethos, and get invested in contemporary Turkish society by following a set of characters, each with their own contradictory and sincere narrative strand, each one characterizing a different aspect of the country. This eight-part series is not made for outsiders, but it creates the kind of world that outsiders can stumble into, and choose to stay. Writer and director Berkun Oya has a landscape geographer’s imagination and a taste for still life. He trades in scenes of compelling landscapes and beautifully lit accidental-Renaissance close-ups. Once the backdrop and characters have captured your senses, the nuanced stories come across easily.

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