The Exorcist in Istanbul: Processes of Transcultural Appropriation Within Turkish Popular Cinema

Iain Robert Smith


In 1974, producer Hulki Saner hired acclaimed director Metin Erksan to direct an unofficial remake of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973). The resultant film, ?eytan, took the plot, characters and set-pieces from the prior film and translated them into a predominantly Islamic setting. This process of intercultural dialogue exemplifies Yesilçam, a cycle of low-budget cinema from Turkey that flourished throughout the 1960s and 1970s in which elements of Western popular culture were being borrowed and remoulded into the Turkish context. Drawing on Tom O’Regan’s model of cultural exchange and transmission, this article seeks to build a model of intercultural dialogue attendant to the underlying tensions and negotiations within this hybridised cultural text, an issue of particular contemporary resonance at a time when the EU is proposing 2008 as the ‘Year of Intercultural Dialogue’ and Turkey is itself in talks over its accession to the EU. Building upon that oft used model of Istanbul as a ‘cultural bridge’ between East and West, this article shall examine how Turkish cinema of the 1970s drew upon and appropriated elements from US popular culture. While ?eytan has been dismissed by some cultural commentators as derivative plagiarism, this article argues for a more nuanced model of cross-cultural exchange based around dialogue and interaction, attendant to the interstitial relationships through which cultures meet and interact.

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