Pelin Esmer about Watchtower: 'This is pure cinema'

A woman expecting her uncle's child is in a predicament. Particularly in Turkey. Pelin Esmer's impressive Watchtower shows how – after giving birth – she is helped by a traumatised man. Nominated for a Hivos Tiger Award.

In a nutshell

'The story is about a man and a woman who are both trying to hide. Both struggle with their consciences until they meet and it becomes a struggle between them. The film is primarily about guilt and conscience.'


'The idea developed when I heard a hostess on a bus make an announcement. They do so using an artificial, mechanical voice that sounds very different to their normal voice. I wondered what it would sound like if it was her last announcement; I wondered how the story would continue. This is how I came up with the lead, Seher, a hostess, who has to hide an unwanted pregnancy. The male character, Nihat, whose wife and child died in an accident, is not based on anyone I know. But is very believable.'


'The locations were just as important as the characters. They are refuges. The watchtower is the place that allows Nihat to watch the world whilst remaining unwatched. Seher can hide at work. Both feel displaced. Up until few years ago, I had no idea that watchtowers like the one in my film existed. But there are quite a few of them in Turkey in heavily wooded areas. They are manned by fire lookouts, who have to keep watch and report any fires that develop. A tough job.'


'It's a very good time to be a filmmaker in Turkey. You do encounter a lot of problems like trying to find funding, but that's a universal problem I think. A lot of good films are currently being made in Turkey. There is a lot of solidarity between directors too. And we are supported by actors who are often prepared to work for little money.'


'Some view the film as an indictment of Turkey's conservative society because there is nowhere the pregnant Seher can go. But that wasn't my point of departure. The film is about two people and the situation they have to learn to deal with. The society they live in is part of this. But this could happen anywhere. It's okay by me if the audience come to that conclusion, but social criticism wasn't my primary objective.'


'This is my second time here. To me, IFFR is the festival of pure cinema. It's more about the films than the parties and the red carpets. You can watch films here that you won't see anywhere else. I am happy that my second film can still be entered into competition. It's my last chance!'

Bright Future

'I have a couple of ideas for my next film, but they aren't very concrete yet. This second film is very different to my first feature, 10 to 11. I can't say whether the third will also be different yet. But I do want to learn something new every time. This time around, I learnt a great deal about directing actors, as I hadn't worked with professionals before.'

Watchtower – Pelin Esmer
Fri 1 16:15 Pathé 1
Sat 2 19:00 Pathé 3

This is an article from the Daily Tiger dated Thursday 31 January 2013.
Photo: Nadine Maas
Text: Sietse Meijer