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Lecture | LUCIS What's New?! Series

Late Ottoman Istanbul Meets Cinema: Social Impacts of the First Encounter

Thursday 16 November 2023
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What's New?! Fall Lecture Series 2023
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

 After the first public screening in Paris in 1895, when did the cinematograph arrive in Istanbul? Where and by whom were the first cinema screenings held? How did the Ottoman Palace and Ottoman Society react to the emergence of the new medium at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century? How did the birth of cinema affect Ottoman social and cultural life? How did religious and cultural diversity influence the adoption of cinema as a common form of entertainment? What was the influence of Ramadan entertainment and child audiences on the spread of cinema screenings to different neighbourhoods in cosmopolitan Istanbul?

This seminar focuses on the first encounter between Ottoman Society and Cinema within the framework of these questions. When searching newspapers of the time, it is evident that Ottoman society eagerly awaited the discovery of the cinematograph. The cinematograph was quickly embraced by the people of Istanbul and attracted significant interest. Istanbul emerged as an important market for European entrepreneurs. Cinema screenings were concentrated in the Beyoğlu and Pera districts, home to various ethnicities and non-Muslims, while Muslim audiences swiftly integrated cinema into the existing entertainment culture of Direklerarasi. Muslim audiences, already familiar with various forms of entertainment such as Karagöz (shadow play), theater, meddah, and variety shows, played a key role in spreading cinema to other regions, thanks to the extended Ramadan entertainment that continued throughout the night. At the same time the cinematograph operators sent by the Lumière brothers transformed views of the Haliç (Golden Horn), the Bosphorus, and other panoramic landscapes into films accessible to European audiences. Just like in other countries, a high percentage of child audiences in early cinema also contributed to the rapid adoption and commercial success of cinema. All of these factors, combined with modern transportation opportunities connecting Istanbul to Europe, particularly through Sirkeci Station, strengthened Istanbul's status as a cultural capital in a short period.

About Bekir Düzcan

Duzcan received a Ph.D. degree from the Sociology department at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in 2020. The dissertation focused on the Sociological Analysis of Childhood in Turkish Cinema from the outset. Since 2020, he has been conducting research on 'Early World Cinema and Childhood' at Utrecht University. This research, utilizing the Eye Film Museum archives, highlights the prevalence of child audiences in the early 1900s and the international popularity of the first child movie stars. Duzcan's main research interests include Cultural History, Early Cinema, Cultural Memory, and Sociology of Childhood.

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