İlker Çatak - Artists need to be free of existential worries

Director İlker Çatak in dialogue with Daniel Pook from Short Talks / Photo © Daniel Pook, (2024)
Director İlker Çatak (The Teachers' Lounge) has known from his early youth he wanted to do nothing but make films - even though this did not bring success or prosperity for a long time. In our interview, he reflects on this challenging time for him as an artist, explains how his perspective on short films has recently changed and why he believes that filmmaking, as well as cinema itself, can have a profoundly healing effect on us humans.

Although İlker Çatak was born and still lives in Berlin, and has been making many short films since his early youth, he has never been in competition at the Berlinale Shorts. As he told us in an interview at the 2024 festival, it took quite a while, many overlooked films, and money spent before he gained recognition as a director.

Recognition eventually came, particularly through his short films Sadakat and Where We Are. With these films, he won the prestigious Max Ophüls Short Film Award in 2013 and 2014 consecutively and was nominated with both films for the Student Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which he won in gold on his second attempt with Sadakat.

His subsequent feature films also received awards and consistently critical acclaim, with The Teachers' Lounge standing out as the highlight of Çatak's film career. After the multi-faceted school drama was honored multiple times at the Berlinale in 2023 and emerged as a winner in five categories at the German Film Awards, including Best Director and Best Film, it was followed by an Oscar nomination for Best International Film the following year.

In our German interview at Berlinale 2024, where İlker Çatak served as a juror for the short film section, he gave us very personal insights into the difficult times before he found recognition with his films. He spoke about the constant trying, never losing faith in oneself, the many failures, the lack of understanding from his parents, but also about the healing power of film itself for himself as a person and as an artist.

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