KUTLUĞ ATAMAN

Born 1961 Istanbul, Turkey

Kutluğ Ataman is a filmmaker, known for work with strong characterisation and humanity. He is also an artist who uses the moving image as his main medium of expression.

Kutluğ Ataman's first feature, Serpent’s Tale (Karanlık Sular) (1994) is a drama set against the beauty of a decaying Istanbul. Scripted and directed by Ataman, this dark murder story grips its audience, taking us into a world where old and new confront. Critics praised the way in which Ataman successfully encapsulates the crisis of contemporary Turkish culture through this skilfully crafted and visually rich film. Serpent’s Tale brought Ataman rapid acclaim and was invited to numerous festivals, from Montreal to Shanghai. Its many awards include Best Film, Director and Screenplay from the Turkish Film Critics Association at the Istanbul International Film Festival, plus the Jury Prize at the Ankara International Festival.

Ataman’s second feature Lola+Bilidikid (1998) and was selected to open the Panorama section of the 49. International Berlin Film Festival. This fast moving story is set in Berlin, with main characters from the city’s Turkish community. Ataman’s film is strong mixture of humour and violence, tackling a society’s racial and sexual identity prejudices head on. As well as its successful commercial release in Germany, Turkey, the US and in other territories, the film was a major hit at festivals. It won awards in Turin, Oslo, and Istanbul and was given the Best Film prize at New York’s The New Festival, and the Jury Special Prize at the Berlin Festival.

2 Girls (2005) is an adaptation of Perihan Mağden’s novel İki Genç Kızın Romanı with screenplay and direction by Ataman. The two teenage girl protagonists, with their contrasting characteristics and social backgrounds, form close bonds, with strong sexual undertones. Istanbul is again the backdrop for the film – a more stark, contemporary urban landscape than in Serpent’s Tale. Ataman directs a well- paced and entertaining look at the fragility of the relationship of the teenagers, and of their dreams and hopes. The film was a commercial and critical success and confirmed Ataman’s position in the top rank of the leading Turkish filmmakers. He was awarded Best Director and Best Film prizes for 2 Girls at both the Ankara and Antalya Film Festivals, and Best Film at the Asian Film Festival in India.   

Journey to the Moon (2009),  is a full length film which also forms in its installation version part of Ataman's artwork Mesopotamian Dramaturgies. In its film version it was shown in the Official Selection at the 2009 International Istanbul Film Festival, and competed in the section Competition Perspectives at the 31st Moscow International Film Festival (19 - 28 June 2009).  It was screened at the BFI 53rd London Film Festival in October 2009.  As part of the public programme to mark the appointment of Kutluğ Ataman as a laureate of the 2011 Routes Award Journey to the Moon was shown in Brussels and Rotterdam (February 2011).

The Lamb (2014) is Ataman's most recent full length movie.  It premiered in February 2014 at the 64. International Berlin Film Festival as an Official Selection of the Panorama Special section.  It won the CICAE Art Cinema Award for best film in the Panorama section of the Festival.  The CICAE jury described the film as "An allegorical tale about coping with the modern world through childlike, intuitive understanding.  Humorous and gentle, the story is about the poorest family in a remote mountain community which can't afford a lamb for the celebration of their son's circumcision.  Every aspect of the filmmaker's art comes together in the service of the story, from cinematography that capture the enormity and power of the landscape to superb casting and performance, especially by young actors. Director Kutluğ Ataman serves up a cinematic feast with his film Kuzu (The Lamb)."

Kuzu (The Lamb) won the Golden Orange Award for Best Film at the 2014 Antalya International Film Festival, along with five other awards, including the Turkish Cinema Critics Association National Award for Best Film.  At the Valladolid International Film Festival 2014 it received the Best Screenplay Prize (Kutluğ Ataman) and Best Photography Prize (Feza Çaldıran).

Kutluğ Ataman also finds time to reach audiences in museums and galleries, using his skills as a filmmaker to cross over into the contemporary art world. Using real people as his subjects, Ataman’s camera and subtle interventions allow them to tell their stories. Following the success of his first art piece, an affectionate and compelling work about a Turkish opera diva in her eighties, Ataman’s work has dealt with subjects whose infectious obsessions and passions appeal to both critics and publics. His work has been shown at the leading events in the contemporary art calendar – including the Venice Biennial and Germany’s Documenta – and in galleries worldwide including MoMA New York, London’s Tate and the Guggenheim in Bilbao. He won the Carnegie Prize in Pittsburgh in 2004, was one of the four shortlisted artists for the 2004 Turner Prize, and in 2009 won the Abraaj Capital Art Prize. He was recently selected the joint 2011 winner of the European Cultural Fund "Routes" Princess Margriet Award for cultural diversity.  In 2003 the UK’s Observer newspaper selected him artist of the year. His works are in public and private collections worldwide, including MoMA New York, Tate Modern, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, the Dimitris Daskalopoulos Collection, Athens and the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh.

In 2009 new works were given their first showing in Linz, European Capital of Culture 2009, and in London at the Whitechapel Gallery and Thomas Dane Gallery.  His works also appeared in exhibitions in Istanbul, Lille, Basel, Gothenburg, Paris, Malmö and Cologne during 2009.  Kutluğ Ataman also found time to be Chair of the Jury at the 2009 Istanbul International Film Festival. In 2012 his works were seen in New York, Copenhagen, Ekaterinburg and Istanbul. In 2013 they were seen in Madrid, Basel, Hobart, Vancouver, London and Istanbul. In 2014 works were seen in group and solo exhibitions in Hobart, São Paulo and Istanbul as well as in permanent collections.  In 2015 his works are in exhibitions in Denver, New York, Los Angeles, Istanbul and Venice where he was one of the artists selected by curator Okwui Enwezor to show at the 56th Venice Biennale (May to November 2015).

A full-length documentary film, Kutluğ Ataman, directed by Metin Çavuş about Ataman's art career to date was issued at the end of 2011.