We are proud to present to you, one of the first full-length videos from Istanbul in a long while. Dutch – Turkish filmmaker Kadir Kucuk spent a turbulent year in the city that is considered by many the modern gateway to Europe, a center point in history, and to this day, one of the world’s biggest and most interesting cities in the world. Kadir spent his time wisely, working hard and walking away with a great video and a lot of new experiences. Click up the top to play the video or scroll down to get the drop on what life in the former Constantinople can be like.
Intro & Interview By Roland Hoogwater.
Photos by Yannick Wijgman & Tolga Bolukbasi.
Welcome Kadir how are you?
I am good, just working at the new shop in Arnhem, Public Skateshop. The weather is great today, so, I am just sitting outside for a minute. People can only enter the shop
So for the people that don’t know yet, tell me a bit about who you are.
Ok, I am Kadir Kucuk, I was born in ‘s-Heerenberg, The Netherlands, I am 24-years-old and I studied film (laughs). I make skate-videos but I am also focussing on other film work at the moment as well like, documentaries or short films.
And your heritage is Turkish?
Yes, both of my parents are from Akkuş in Turkey.
So, I can imagine that you spent time in Turkey before making this film, do you speak Turkish?
Yes, we spent a couple of summer holidays in Turkey. I also do speak Turkish at home, but during my year in Istanbul I learned a lot language wise. The locals can spot an accent from a mile away so they would often ask where I was from. If they would guess it they would say Germany, because to them the Netherlands is so small.
That makes sense, Germany has about 3-million Turks and Berlin has about a quarter of a million, so I guess that is the obvious choice. But how did you come to making this film?
Well, I was always interested in the Turkish scene, they had some old local skate videos but there was not much to be found.
So, I met the crew at the local plaza Meydan, in Istanbul. Me and Adem Ustaoglu really had a good vibe. He ended up with the last part in the video.
How did you end up using Turkish music and choosing a Turkish title for the project?
Well, I got inspired by Pekka Løvas’ work, he did this video with Norwegian songs called DE ANDRE. Turkey has a very cool music scene and I thought it would be great to stay with the culture that birthed the video. And introduce people to that world all at the same time.
That is sick but, you ended up going back multiple times right?
Yeah, so after that month-long summer holiday in 2017 I went on another holiday in 2018 for about a week and I filmed some stuff that I wanted to save. I didn’t know for what, but it was too good to use in a short edit. So the next year I decided on making a full-length and went to Istanbul with the idea of staying there for 6-months. That ended up being a year.
Did you have a plan already?
Just skating and filming. The skaters there are super welcoming, they take you in. That wasn’t just the case for me, I saw others being assimilated as well. My guide to the scene was Adem, but it doesn’t matter that much the scene isn’t that big and being a skater is something special so you connect with each other quickly. They welcome you in as a group.
Istanbul is a special place, and you moved at a pretty young age, I was wondering what it is like to be young in a city like Istanbul compared to Arnhem.
It is a bit different, and it is complicated because I just spent a year there. The city overall is not as modern compared to most Dutch cities. But you can do and make a lot of shit happen in the city. People are a bit more old-fashioned in general though.
What about skate-shops do they have those?
They do, but skateboarding is pretty expensive here. People make less and with the Lira to Dollar conversion, it is a real choice to be a skater. It is about 10 times more expensive, so you have to make some consessions.
To come back to your video, it is not like the skaters are holding back though?
No, they are really skating, they want to show themselves and will put the work in to make tricks happen. Sometimes on shitty or second-hand equipment.
The city is one of the biggest and it has a European and a Eastern side and it feels like it has a lot of different looks.
It does, in some places it is distinctly Turkish in other places it can look like Paris or China. The city is so big that to travel to that Chinese looking hip spot takes a couple of ours. That is a big difference with the Netherlands, you can travel over an hour and still be inside the city of Istanbul. if I travel an hour in the Netherlands I can be in a different province and a couple of cities over.
Another big difference is the amount of people, so you might find a spot in the city-center but you also have to find the right time to skate that spot because there are certain rush-hour moments when you just can’t skate certain places.
That is crazy, It also seems like you get a lot of attention from non-skaters at spots.
Yeah, people will come up and ask for your board and would want to cruise it is hectic. There are a lot of people at the plaza’s just drinking beers and sniffing glue, they would come up and just want to skate. It is fun but it can also be a bit much. Sometimes kids would roll around on one of our boards and after like 5-minutes they would come back with a broken board because it got run over by a car.
You did film a trick with one of those kids, Ollieing a 5 or 6 stair.
Yeah, we gave that kid a board multiple times and he would have it for a while and then all of a sudden the whole setup would be gone. He probably sold it or something (laughs). But that kid was hyped, he could barely Ollie and he would try some pretty big stairs.
You also ran into some problems making the video, someone tried to take ownership in a sneaky way?
Yes, that was crazy. There was this guy, running a clothing boutique type of store. One of those that also sell some of the more high-end skate brands. He contacted me and asked me to work for him, he wanted me to help produce a podcast, work in the shop and he would support the video.
I was interested in doing that, but I wasn’t that good at setting my own boundaries. He ended up trying to take control over the video, he kept interfering and problems started to stack up until it came to a breaking point. He made promises that he didn’t keep and me and the crew kept getting more suspicious.
about a month before we had the premiere the crew sat down, one of the skaters’ dads (Kutberg Kaya) was a lawyer and he told us to make letters saying that we did not give permission for our image to be used. I went back to the guy and said: “We can’t do the video, because nobody will clear it.” and he was threatening me saying stuff like: “You need to fix this, get them to, ok it!”. He even talked about suing me for 150k because of supposed damages to the image of the store. But the Lawyer asked me if we had any agreement on paper, we didn’t, so in the end he could not do anything but make threats.
I went back to the Netherlands after the premiere. I learned not to trust people at face value and I learned how to set my own boundaries better. I became pretty depressed because of the stress he put me in, so when I came back, I couldn’t really work and had to spend time on getting back healthy and process what had happened.
During that time the video was done, but I wanted to make some changes but I couldn’t put myself to do it. I wasn’t really ready to put it out, until now. The whole thing feels done to me now. The video means a lot to me personally because of all those experiences. The title is a reference to that “Kolay Gelsin”, is a phrase you use in Turkey to say goodbye. It is used like: “Have a nice day.” but literally it means: “Let life be easy for you”. To me, the whole process of making this and the title just ties in well with my emotions toward the project.
I think we should end it at that, thank you for doing this Kadir!