Sharjah Art Foundation, Istanbul Modern Collaborate on Film Initiatives

Sharjah Art Foundation and Istanbul Modern launch a multi-year partnership with a new film initiative at Sharjah Film Platform 4. Reflecting the commitment to film programming at both institutions, this partnership will explore new avenues of exchange between SAF and Istanbul Modern while creating opportunities that advance regional filmmaking and cinema.

The first part of this collaboration, titled Her Journey will screen at Sharjah Film Platform 4, the Foundation’s annual film festival. Her Journey is curated by Müge Turan, Film Curator at Istanbul Modern and includes 10 films from Turkey by women directors focusing on women’s subjectivities that are fragmentary, multiple, contradictory and in constant flux.

Highlighting both the diversity and intersectionality of identities, these women-centric stories—three feature-length films, two documentaries and five shorts—give us memorable characters that shimmer with life and passion, while reflecting historical and cultural pressures.

Exploring various representations of female subjectivity and even suggesting provocative models of cinematic resistance, the 10 films in Her Journey prove the truth of the well-known feminist slogan, ‘the personal is political’.

In 2022, Sharjah Art Foundation will curate a second film programme at Istanbul Modern. Additional details will be announced soon.

Running from 19 to 27 November 2021, Sharjah Film Platform 4 features a film programme of over 50 short and feature-length films in the narrative, documentary and experimental genres. The festival also includes a public programme of talks and workshops led by renowned filmmakers, and the SFP Industry Hub, an industry-focused professional programme that supports the production and distribution of films.

Her Journey Film Programme

Ghosts (2020)

Director: Azra Deniz Okyay (Narrative Feature)

Azra Deniz Okyay’s first feature-length film is set in an Istanbul neighbourhood that becomes even more dystopic due to the citywide power outage. As the story unfolds, the lives of four characters intersect—a mother whose son is in prison, a young woman committed to dancing, a female activist-artist and a cunning middleman. Ghosts depicts contemporary issues such as urban transformation, Syrian migrants, femicides as well as the blockade and rebellion in the city with a colourful visual style.

Sibel (2018)

Director: Çağla Zencirci, Guillaume Giovanetti (Narrative Feature)

In a secluded village nestled in the mountains of Turkey’s Black Sea region, 25-year-old Sibel lives with her father and sister. Sibel is mute, but she communicates by using the ancestral whistled language of the area. Throughout the film, the camera follows Sibel (Damla Sönmez in a luminescent performance) as she works the fields or prowls the woods in search of a wolf that’s been allegedly preying on the population. Her life is changed when she helps a deserter from the Turkish army hiding in the forest.

Something Useful (2017)

Director: Pelin Esmer (Narrative Feature)

Two strangers meet on the night train. Leyla, a poet and lawyer, is travelling to attend her high school reunion while Canan is on her way to a nursing ‘job’. Leyla is intrigued by Canan from the moment she boards the train. After Leyla bombards her with never-ending questions, the young nurse reveals her reasons for being on this train, and a one-way journey for the two begins.

The Great Istanbul Depression (2020)

Director: Zeynep Dilan Süren (Narrative Short)

Didem and Ayşe are unable to find jobs even though it has been a long time since they’ve graduated from university. While Didem spends her days mostly in bed, watching TV series, Ayşe regularly goes to unsuccessful job interviews. This is their shared struggle–in Istanbul, against Istanbul.

#21xoxo (2020)

Directors: Imge Özbilge, Sine Özbilge (Narrative Short)

An experimental animated short film, #21xoxo revolves around the adventures of a 21-year-old girl in a parallel digital universe interlaced with speed dating, hipster culture and post-net attitudes. The film uses a colourful, surreal and allegorical language to depict the virtual network of relationships of the 21st century.

My Sister (2019)

Director: Burcu Aykar (Narrative Short)

A hot and sticky summer in Istanbul during the 1980s. Though living in the same house, Elif, 10, and her sister Ayşe, 13, seem to have completely separate lives. Elif watches her sister with admiration while Ayşe seems to be mentally far away in a different world.

Witch Trilogy (2019)

Director: Ceylan Özgün Özçelik (Narrative Short)

A 14-year-old girl communicates with a spider in a dark basement without knowing the time and place. Wandering between genres from horror to dark comedy, Ceylan Özgün Özçelik’s Witch Trilogy consists of three connected films that collectively explore women, violence, sacrifice and revenge through different forms, spaces, stories and characters.

CemileSezgin (2020)

Directors: Aylin Kuryel, Raşel Meseri (Documentary Short)

This film explores urban surfaces and urban legends through Cemile and Sezgin, who have been writing their love story on the walls and streets of Izmir for five years. Dominik Street residents have a myriad of theories on who these mysterious people are.

Amina (2019)

Director: Kıvılcım Akay (Documentary Feature)

Seven years ago, Amina left her daughter behind in Senegal in search of a better life for them both. Now, working as a dress model for a textile company in Istanbul, Amina dreams of one day becoming a real model and returning to her child. But as an African woman, she must overcome the daily challenges of an immigrant’s life in Turkey while she attempts to reconcile the disparate world between her reality and her dreams.

Women’s Country (2019)

Director: Şirin Bahar Demirel (Documentary Feature)

Women’s Country follows the director’s everlasting search for the meaning of home. Often defined by memories and people, is it transient or stable? And can it be tied to a location? Displaced by the war in Syria and resettled in Florida, Fatima and Huda join her in the exploration of what it means to build a new home, to leave things and people behind, and how the past is weaved into the present.

The SFP4 Talks Programme, held in conjunction with SFP4, will host a conversation titled Contemporary Turkish Cinema Through the Female Lens.

Friday, 26 November 2021

4:00 pm–5:00 pm (Mirage City Cinema, Al Mureijah Square, Sharjah)

Turkish cinema has experienced a revival in recent years with women directors increasingly at the helm of bold and visionary storytelling. In conjunction with the screening programme, Her Journey, curated by Istanbul Modern for the 4th edition of Sharjah Film Platform, this panel discussion brings together women filmmakers who are making waves in Turkey’s film scene. Against the backdrop of long-standing gender imbalances in the film industry globally, how are women in Turkey reclaiming the lens through which women’s experiences are written and portrayed? What are their unique pathways to visibility and success? This session spotlights the rich diversity of female-centred stories in documentary and narrative filmmaking in Turkey and how women’s lives, their struggles, dreams and triumphs, are being brought to the big screen.

Moderator: Müge Turan – Film Curator, Istanbul Modern


Kıvılcım Akay – Filmmaker

Şirin Bahar Demirel – Filmmaker

Azra Deniz Okyay – Filmmaker

Pelin Esmer – Filmmaker

Cagla Zencirci – Filmmaker

Find out more about the films and ticketing information at

About Sharjah Film Platform

Sharjah Film Platform is an annual Sharjah Art Foundation initiative launched in 2018 as a resource to support emerging and established filmmakers. SFP encompasses four core components: a programme of film screenings; a series of talks, workshops and discussions; the annual Short Film Production Grant; and the recently launched Industry Hub initiative, which supports film production and distribution in the MENASA region and internationally. Together, the platform continues the Foundation’s longstanding commitment to film programming and commissions as well as emerging and established filmmakers, film producers, critics and students.

About Istanbul Modern

Istanbul Modern was founded in 2004 as Turkey’s first museum of modern and contemporary art. Committed to sharing Turkey’s artistic creativity and cultural identity with the local and international art worlds, the museum hosts a broad array of interdisciplinary activities.

Istanbul Modern embraces a global vision to collect, preserve, display and document works of modern and contemporary art, photography, design, architecture, new media and cinema. It acts as an intermediary in the sharing of Turkey’s cultural identity with the international art environment. It supports the artists in their productions and their efforts to form international partnerships. Aspiring to make art easily accessible by the masses, Istanbul Modern provides education programs to art followers of all ages.

Through its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs, the museum aims to instill a love of the arts in visitors from all walks of life and encourage their active participation in the arts.

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