Documentary “Istanbul – Changing Perspectives”

Why does a young person decide to pack their bags for six months, to move from home and to make a new start in a completely unfamiliar milieu? Which expectations, […]

Why does a young person decide to pack their bags for six months, to move from home and to make a new start in a completely unfamiliar milieu? Which expectations, hopes, wishes and fears do these people bring along when they set off to start a new life in one of the most exciting and vibrant cities in the world? And why especially Istanbul, why this city at the Bosphorus with its special mix of cultures?

The documentary short film “Istanbul – Changing Perspectives” by Carolin Winterholler and Marie Hartlieb deals with these questions. The film was produced in 2013 and had its premier at the Europe Day of the Kadir Has University in Istanbul.

Three young students from Germany were accompanied by the filmmakers over six months during their studies in Istanbul. All three protagonists shone a light on different facets of their study abroad in this intercontinental metropolis.

Özgür tells how it was to go back to his old home town, to spent time with its relatives and to receive an impression about the Turkish job market besides his studies. Joanna rapidly dives into the creative scene of Istanbul and hikes through the city in search of the ambivalence of modernity and tradition. Janina talks about how she has overcome first time experiences and shocking moments and how long she has taken time to get used to her new life.

The documentation allows the students to talk about their expectations and their first moments in this country which is foreign for them, to reflect on their experiences over time, to overcome the cultural shock and to become a part of the city at the end. How do they develop and change under the impression of the unfamiliar city, unaccustomed culture and (mostly) unknown environment? How do they broaden their knowledge?

And what was the intrinsic aim of the producers, what was their motivation behind this project and which experiences did they gain from it?

We get in touch with the filmmaker Carolin Winterholler, who also came to Istanbul as an Erasmus student at first, and discuss with her about the background of the production.

A Scene of Istanbul With Different Eyes

Carolin about…

…the motivation behind the project:

Our motivation was that we both are interested in documentary films. In Turkey there are many issues that we would be really interested in, have a political background and are difficult to see through also because of the linguistic barrier. Due to this reason we wanted to deal with an issue that we know from our own experiences and in which we do not deal with language barriers.

…the initial question:

How do people change if they are dealing with a totally new environment? We also underwent changes and noticed ourselves that there is something like a common thread regarding cultural shock.

…the realization of the film project:

We contacted several universities which have an Erasmus cooperation with Istanbul and asked for assistance. We received positive feedback and we found some interested people within a short time, who offered to share their experience as Erasmus students in Istanbul.

…own learning effects:

It was impressive for me that I have discovered really many parallels between me and the Erasmus students. It was almost terrifying how similar we Germans are just due to the fact that we have grown up in the same country. This was incredibly fascinating for me and a kind of journey to my inner self.

…difficulties of the project:

The most difficult thing for me was definitely the technical aspect. It is incredibly difficult to make a documentary film without financial and technical support. There are many things that you need and that cost so much money: from the camera to the memory card and tripod to the computer which you use for the editing of the bulk of files. Likewise the cut, the coordination of different date formats (audio and video) and the smoothing out of small greenhorn mistakes (like shaky pictures) was a real challenge for us laypeople.

…positive insights:

You learn many incredible things, gain a vision and understanding for other people. It is a great feeling if people you do not know let you in on their lives and feelings, and place their trust in you.

Istanbul – Changing Perspectives is a fondly made documentary film about the hopes, wishes, expectations, forces and (self-) awareness of three young students in their semester abroad in Istanbul. A city, experienced not by the eyes of tourists but by ones who embark in the rhythm of the metropolis, offers a differently shaped intensive perspective to the life in the metropol between two continents.

The documentation was shown in the Europe Day of Kadir Has University in 2013, which was the opening movie of the International Changing Perspectives Short Film Festival 2013 and was streamed in the framework of Turkey Encounters in Oldenburg in 2015. You can watch it below.



Text: Jonas Wronna Translation: Serap Güngör

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