[These reviews were originally published on Cagatay Ulusoy North America website as the show aired in 2021, but I'm also posting copies here for my records. Maybe my readers will someday enjoy finding this show, which is one of the most intelligent Turkish series I have watched]
At the end of a fantastic promotional strategy implemented by BluTV over the past few weeks, the first two episodes of Yesilcam dropped on the platform promptly at 7 pm local Turkish time on April 22. Even though a series for the digital platform, the period piece boasts a rich tapestry of cinematic elements that makes it a visual treat as we get lost in the developing characters. The Story & Characters Semih Ates (Cagatay Ulusoy) is a passionate, creative and upstanding film producer who has recently lost his production company Ates Film to a low life character called Vehbi (Onur Bilge). This fills him with new vigor to produce another film, after a string of box office flops. His office mates at his new company Great Ates Film (Buyuk Ates Film) and supporting team includes womanizing Hakan (Semih's ex-wife Mine's brother, played by Bora Akkas), Mumtaz Bey (Altan Erkekli) who was entrusted with Semih as a teenager, and Nebahat (Nurcan Sirin), the office admin. Semih's ex-wife Mine (Selin Sekerci), with whom the love story is 'complicated' to say the least, is the top billing actress in Yesilcam. She is often paired with Ayhan Isik (a real and famous actor from the Yesilcam era), and Semih knows that with that pair, alongside the famous director Atif Yilmaz (another real life famous personality of the Yesilcam era), Semih can get back into the game with a film, validating his mantra of "I make a film, the sick recovers and the season changes". Detracting his efforts are Reha Esmer (Yetkin Dikinciler), a smooth talking power monger of Yesilcam. He is having a clandestine affair with Mine, and hides his dormant need to dominate Semih, disguising his devious nature under a seemingly benevolent benefactor for Semih, but it is obvious that Semih is aware of the duplicity. He wants to expel Semih from Istanbul and send him off to Adana, perhaps to remove his threat in the film business as well as with Mine, who obviously still carries a torch for Semih, and Semih seems to yearn for her as well.
Set within the backdrop of the political unrests of 1964 due to the Cyprus disputes that led to the expulsion of the Greeks from Istanbul, during a time of escalating intolerance for communist beliefs, Semih receives a script called "Two Sisters" from his good friend Turgut (Muhammet Kulu), who is being persecuted for being a communist. Semih falls in love with the script, and simultaneously meets Tulin Saygi, a fresh faced young girl looking to become an actress, and daughter to a social climbing single mother, Adviye (Nilufar Acikalin). He imagines Tulin as one of the leads for the script, with the second sister played by Mine, and signs her on to his company. Tulin has also caught the eye of Izzet Orkan (Ozgur Cevik), a political sympathizer of Adnan Menderes, the Turkish Prime Minister who was tried and hanged after the coup d'etat of 1960. Izzet is recently returned from America and is a sadistic sexual predator who wants to own Tulin. He is also looking to do business with Reha, the two being well matched in their lack of morals. Due to betrayals and politicking behind his back, Vehbi manages to wrest the script away from Semih's company, and Reha manipulates the loss of Tulin in a talent show designed to open doors in Yesilcam for the winner. Through his cleverness, Semih is able to turn the situation around, exposing his optimistic and fair nature, as he tells Tulin that he did it because he didn't want for her to leave.
The Review Semih is a man who can discern talent and the soul of a story because of his deep love for cinema and has an admirer in Tulin, who loves Semih's masterpiece "Dovetail Season" (Kirlangic Mevsimi) starring Mine and Ayhan. Depicting a beautiful love story, both Tulin and Semih know the poetic dialogue by heart. "If I wasn't in love with you, my love, then I couldn't even grow up, my love. Falling in love with you was my destiny. Love means to be in love madly but not having each other. It means to be defeated, to be upset and to suffer". It foretells a tragic love story, yet to be seen for which pair within the possible love triangle of Mine, Semih and Tulin. Through such filmic interludes, we get a wonderful character sketch of each of the protagonists, the inner tensions that draw them or repel them to and from each other. With an eye for details, director Cagan Irmak has created visually rich frames that speak its own story, some shots taken from interesting angles almost designed to pique the viewer's interest in the emotions being told by the inanimate objects on screen. In its first two episodes, Yesilcam draws the viewers into the world of cinema from the 1960s. Scriptwriters Levent Centek and Volkan Sumbul have outdone themselves in how they reveal the narrative. Complementing the set design and costumes is the dialogue delivery and language, which seems to have a lyrical tilt that is different from modern day spoken language, paired with staid and stiff sets of gestures that are more archaic than the fluid motions of contemporary societies.
Cagatay is fantastic as Semih Ates, showcasing his versatility as an actor once again. Semih is sensual but also energetic, an idealist but also pragmatic, a lover at heart but carries himself with a nonchalance that hides his despair, generous in spirit but steely in his resolve. Within all the contradictions, Semih seems an inspirational character who rouses hope and excellence from those around him, possessing that special magic that threatens the manufactured personas like Reha and Izzet. Cagatay gets to showcase some of his subtle but excellent comic timing, especially in some of the scenes designed to be a bit satirical. He is shown as a guileless character who gets overjoyed with the simplest things, and the scenes between him and Bora are somewhat reminiscent of the camaraderie Cagatay shared with Tamer Olmez in Medcezir. Brothers from a different mother! And as in Medcezir, embedded within some serious themes are threads of comedy that endears the audience to the characters. Fans are rightfully excited about this project and watching Cagatay in this new avatar. In short, Yesilcam is worthy of its hype and we look forward to the unfolding of more layers in the characters and the story. Episode 3 will air on BluTV at 7 pm on April 29, 2021.
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