CINEMA HALLS SERVE AS SHELTER DURING BLOODY YEARS OF FIGHTING IN CYPRUS
Turkish Daily News
July 24, 2008 Thursday
Over 100 years ago a Turk and a Greek came together and introduced
cinema to the island of Cyprus, marking the beginning of a complex
history of the art on the troubled island.
The year was 1913 and young Greek Cypriot Niko Kiprianu and Turkish
Cypriot Mustafa Ali decided to work together to bring the seventh art
film — to Cyprus, buying the island’s first projector and beginning
to show silent films in public spaces on the island.
Eventually, Kipriani and Ali went on to pioneer the opening of the
first cinema hall on the island as well. Movies were shown regularly
for the first time in Ataturk Square, located in the heart of Nicosia.
In the late 1920s, cinema halls began to be opened in villages, as
well additional open air cinemas in the downtowns of cities. After a
short time, cinema became one of the favorite forms of entertainment
for the inhabitants of Cyprus.
Taking the seats in cinemas almost every night, Cypriots whether Greek
or Turkish — laughed and cried at the same scenes and became sad or
The first film shown in Cyprus was "Leblebici Horhor" (Horhor the
Roasted Chickpeas Seller), directed by Muhsin Ertugrul, a prominent
figure in the history of Turkish drama. The film was adapted to the
silver screen from an operetta by Armenian composer Dikran Cuhaciyan.
Days of peace and harmony on the island ended in the ’60s, as strict
polarization occurred between Turkish and Greek Cypriots.
Cinema halls that had once set the scene for shared feelings began
to be used as places where political figures appealed to the masses
during the years of struggle by Turkish Cypriots on the island. "The
struggle of the Turkish Cypriots were a struggle for existence on the
island," said Fevzi Kasap, who teaches cinema and television at Near
East University in northern Cyprus.
Cinema halls became gathering places where political leaders gave moral
support to Turkish Cypriots. Rauf Raif Denktas, founder of Turkish
Cyprus, was the top figure among those who used to bring together
Turkish Cypriots in the cinema halls. "With the chaos that appeared
after years of peace and harmony, the cinema halls on Cyprus also
lost their spirit and began witnessing painful events on the island,"
said Zuhal Cetin Ozkan, a faculty member at Dokuz Eylul University
in Izmir and the supervisor of the first film festival organized in
Turkey’s stars support Turkish Cypriots
"Very hard times they were," said Kasap of the years of struggle in
northern Cyprus, noting that many cinema halls were used as shelters
during the years of fighting. "Hundreds of families left their homes
and took shelter in the cinema halls during the Bloody Christmas in
1963. Heroes and heroines of the silver screen were replaced by those
of real life tragedies," he added.
During those difficult years, cinema stars from Turkey became an
important source of morale for Turkish Cypriots. Enduring figures
of Turkish cinema, Turkan Soray — the so-called Sultana of Cinema,
Ediz Hun, Goksel Arsoy and many others came to the island to support
In 1974 Ekrem Bora, a prominent actor in Turkish cinema, also
paid a visit to Cyprus to give moral support to Turks living on the
island. "During Bora’s visit, troops from Turkey landed on the island
to bring peace there," said Kasap, adding Bora had to stay longer in
the Saray Hotel in Nicosia because of the historic event.
Cinema addicts risked their lives
The magical effect of the seventh art on inhabitants of the island
has never vanished, despite all the bitter events of the past decades,
said Kasap. Both Greek Cypriots on the south of the island and Turkish
Cypriots on the north see cinema as a source of hope while living
through painful years.
But the process was undoubtedly marked by more gripping pain on the
Turkish side, argued Kasap. "Some Turkish Cypriots used to enter
secretly to cinema halls that switched to Greek control and move
projectors to the other side," he said. He explained the behavior,
saying, "Cinema brought them a momentary happiness. With the silver
screen they tried to alleviate their pain even though that helped
them only a little."
During the hard times Turkish Cypriots were deprived of food and
water, said Kasap. "Cinema was a luxury for them in those years. They
were almost ghettoized in certain regions. This was definitely a
psychological war that aimed to wear them out," he added, emphasizing
the particular difficulties faced by Turkish Cypriots in the past
Northern Cyprus fails to produce its own film industry
Today, northern Cyprus does not have a full-fledged film sector, noted
another academic, Ozkan. "This is a big loss for a people who has
much to tell when considering the episodes that marked their history."
Although the film industry has failed to develop on the northern
part of the island, it has rapidly progressed on the southern part,
as a considerable number of Greek Cypriot directors have made their
debuts in world cinema sector over the past few years.
Many villages in Turkish Cyprus are home to cinema halls that have
been abandoned for decades, said Ozkan, adding each of these halls
have a capacity of about 200 seats. "Northern Cyprus has unfortunately
failed to produce its own cinema sector and the dozens of cinema halls
today only serve for displays of movies produced in other parts of
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress