“The Butterfly's Dream” Vies for Foreign Category Oscar Nod



Los Angeles, California - Turkish actress Belcim Bilgin is very excited- and for good reason:  her latest film was recently selected by the Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ömer Çelikas, to compete for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category. 

Suzan (Belcim Bilgin) enjoys the company of her poet friends and joins Mustaffa in his pole climbing "day job"

Released in February of 2013, and written and directed by Yilmaz Erdogan of Vizontele fame, The Butterfly's Dream ( Kelebeğin Rüyası” in Turkish) is set in Turkey in the 1940's and based on the true-to-life story of two poets.  The film features a memorable score by Rahman Altin, the composer who won the World Soundtrack Awards “Public Choice Award” at the 40th Film Festival.

Screenings were held in Los Angeles recently, including one through the World Affairs Council.  This reporter spoke with Bilgin the “morning after.”  The evening was a memorable one for Bilgin and she said that she loves Los Angeles because it is a city that can “bring one down” but also “very much bring one up.”

The poet Rustu Onur, played by Mert Firat, mourns a loss by writing poetry

It was so moving to see the reaction from the people at the screening,” Bilgin said.  “Some of them were crying at the end.  It was so deep.  When we are doing these screenings, it is so spiritual and emotional.”  Speaking of spirit, the film touches upon a bit of religious and political “stuff” impacting Turkey at the time of the story.  One scene, depicting men being made to parade down a city street under the watchful eyes of armed guards because they have resisted forced work in the mines also includes the message “God is great!” being played by a loud speaker.

God is great is an expression in Turkey,” Bilgin explained.  “It's an expression when we are hoping something, when we reach for something from the bottom of our hearts.  We are saying God is great, He is with us.”  This is definitely a theme carried out through the film.

The mine workers

The Butterfly's Dream depicts the struggles of poets Rustu Onur and Muzaffer Tayyip Uslu. The two friends make a living out of printing their poems at a time when everything around them is difficult and even falling apart as World War II is taking hold.  As creatives- and human beings- their biggest challenges involve their contracting TB (common at the time), and navigating religious barriers and the social class system (they are poor).  They meet Suzan Özsoy, a young woman of privilege (played by Bilgin), are captivated by her, and decide to vie for her affections by way of a poetry “contest.”  Suzan becomes their muse” as they learn much about life- including surviving while also pushing onward toward one's dream.

Bilgin's character, Suzan learns a thing or two about the “real world” as well as she departs from her charmed life as only child of a very wealthy and powerful man and begins to fall for- and fall into the company of- the two ailing and impoverished poets. 

Like a butterfly,” Bilgin said, “the main character is transforming.  When she meets these two poets her life begins to change because she met with the realities of life- and realizes for the first time what it is like to suffer,” a wonderful and tragic part of the film.  With child-like insistence, Suzan talks one of the poets into acting out something the other poet has written of in a play:  working in the mines.  The two are suddenly swept into a group very similar to the one having been paraded as dissidents and then brought seemingly miles under the earth's surface. Avoiding the need for any “spoiler alert” here, it is important to only to say that Bilgin did all of her own “stunts” and that, as with everything in this particular film, the experience was unforgettable for her.  Her writer/director husband, Erdogan certainly believes in authenticy- that includes in filming as well as in research- speaking of which, a large part of this film's production process came about through doing family background and other research about the two poets.

Suzan Ozsoy, played by Belcim Bilgin, flirts with poet Muzaffer Tayyip Uslu (Kivanc Tatlitug)

Yilmaz (Erdogan) spent seven years writing and two years in production,” Bilgin said.  “All that nine years given we went shooting with the twelfth draft.  And while we were shooting, we were transforming it.  Actually, we shot at the thirteenth draft.  Because he is a poet he wanted to do his best for those two writers.”  Erdogan is actually a very well-known poet in Turkey.

He (Erdogan) believes in (the poets') story,” Bilgin added, “and he felt a responsibility to make the audience really know these two poets.  And that is happening right now... each time in the screenings at the end, (although) they were forgotten until today it is the best moment.  It moves me each time during that moment.” 

Yilmaz (Erdogan) put whatever he collected from his life up until that moment (in shooting) in this movie, “ Bilgin said. “He intended to put all this about unknowns into a very big budget movie for Turkey- and he didn't do this with sponsors.  Whatever they are earning from the movie, they are spending.  He put everything into the movie.  Every one thinks we are so insane to invest that much money (on a film about unknowns).  But every time the movie is screened and we think 'they were forgotten until this moment' it moves me so much. “

Suzan (Belcim Bilgin) enjoys the worry-free life of an only child of a wealthy man

Bilgin claims the film has had a spiritual, if you will, pay-off for the cast:  while they were filming they experienced several “coincidences” during which, as she described it, “we felt (the poets) were right there with us.”  And, while the two poets may have been unsung heroes for a very long time, there has been a renewed interest in their work since the film has debuted: sales of their books have increased.

When they were living it was a very sad story,” Bilgin said, “but I am sure that their spirits are happy that all of these things are happening right now.”



The Butterfly's Dream

Turkish with English subtitles

123 minutes

Written and directed by Yilmaz Erdogan

Starring Belcim Bilgin, Kivanc Tatlitug, Mert Firat


Text copyright 2013 M.D. Caprario

Stock photos from film's official web site








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