Staggering into Istanbul

July 27, 2007

After Sundance I came back to NY and fell in a hole for about a month. After I crawled out of it I called Buscemi just to see how he was doing and to my astonishment he said he too had fallen down the well when he’d got back from Sundance. It’s crazy; just hearing that made me feel better--knowing it wasn’t just me, that there were other people out there too who felt like the whole independent film world seemed like it was being performed by monkeys on acid.

Delirious won another award in February; Best Director at the HBO Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. Then, in April I went alone to the Istanbul Film Festival. On the plane I watched the animated in-flight monitor to see exactly where I was going. Turkey borders Iraq and Syria. Right there where all the news is. Right where “The Surge” is working and we were stopping tairrism forever.

Istanbul is a dense, sprawling metropolis that literally bridges East and West. The Bosphorus River runs right through the city; on one side is the end of Europe, on the other Asia begins. The view from my hotel window extended 20 miles and showed nothing but apartment buildings extending in all directions to the horizon.

The screening of Delirious was sold out. Most people were hanging around outside smoking and waiting for the required 15 minutes of commercials to end. A German guy came up and asked, “Could you please for me some autographs to sign?” He had about ten photos, including one of me and Buscemi at San Sebastian and strangely, a picture that Jane had taken in our bedroom two years earlier for me to use as a passport photo. 

I introduced the film by saying, “It took me 6 years to make this film. I put my soul into it. The greatest gift a filmmaker can receive from an audience is if this film touches yours.”

 I’m not sure where this came from. I hadn’t planned to say it. The Turkish audience sat through the first 15 minutes of the film in absolute silence. Then at the scene where Les tells Toby that Robert DeNiro once shook his hand and said, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ the audience suddenly burst into ferocious laughter. On the street after the screening a man approached shyly and rendered me speechless when he said, “Yes, you have succeed. You have touch our soul.” 

There was a party in the garden of an old house perched on a hill overlooking the Bosphorus. The party was already winding down when I got there. A few members of the jury were there. One shook my hand and said, “Good film—I can’t tell you anymore.” More than anything I wished he could tell me what the food was on the table. I was starving. It was so dark I couldn’t see what I was putting on my plate. I ended up with a remnant of the last chicken kabob and what I hoped was a potato. 

A fine rain began to fall. For the first time I noticed in the dim light the Turkish woman talking to me had glitter sprinkled on her face. A few tiny glints sparkled around her mouth as she glanced at my wedding ring. “Your wife is film?” 

“No, “I said, ”she is plants. She make gardens.”



“Why no children?”

There I was gnawing on a piece of dried out chicken in the wet garden of a damp villa overlooking the black Bosphorus at 2am with a complete stranger who understood at best only every other word I spoke but who was gently asking about a deeply personal event in my life. And so I told her.

I know I’m posting late on this blog, but re-reading it, I agree w/Mona. Very cool. Thanks for sharing on your blog.
Now Mona,
What are you doing poking around way back here? Yes, the last paragraph is real. I still remember the moment. Like so much of this experience with Delirious the moments of unexpected personal exchange with people stay in me like tremors from extremely intense dreams.
I’ve never experienced anything like this on any other film, or in any other aspect of my life.
I put everything I had into this film. Everything. It will take years for this one to slip away.
As always, a great pleasure to hear from you again.
I hope that last paragraph is real. It has always stuck with me.

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician