Documentary producer and director Özlem Balcı was threatened by a group in Tetova, Macedonia during the shooting of the document named Tekke Sanatı. Balcı answered our questions, expressing her grief for not being able to complete the Tetovo part of the document.
1- First of all, could you inform us on Tekke Sanatı (Art of the Lodge), the document you were shooting at the time of the incident?"TekkeSanatı" (Art of the Lodge) is my documentary film project which is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. My former document Hanımeli (the Honeysuckle) was supported likewise and is being aired on Turkish state broadcaster TRT. Due to its topic, Tekke Sanatı includes shrines, dervish lodges, mosques and Bektashi lodges and therefore, we were in Tetovo to interview Dervish Baba. Me and my cameraman started shooting Tekke Sanatı in Fethiye but our second shoot in Macedonia ended grievously.
2- Can you recount the incident?We went to Tetovo and reached Dervish Baba. He was really interested, as well as respectful and caring. With great respect to Turkish television, he agreed on canceling his own schedule to give us an interview. We started filming at noon. When it came to shooting the garden of the monastery, some groups coming out of the mosque at that time started pressurizing me. They insulted Dervish Baba and tried to threaten me. But I did not succumb to them. And I continued filming. After a while, a bearded overweight man with a really rude attitude came to me and tried to take away the camera. Hustling with the cameraman, they said they wanted to watch the shootings or we would be held as hostages. As the producer and the director of this project, I couldn't have let that happen. They took away our camera and held us captive for a while. I remember one of them yelling "I'm a man of ISIS." So I reacted and said "I'm not scared of anyone but Allah and I'm definitely not giving you the camera." Then they marched onto us but at that moment Dervish Baba came with policemen and rescued us. We all went to the police station.
3- What was Dervish Abdulmuttalip' reaction and has he had trouble with the group before?He said that he had a dispute to be settled in court but since he won the case the group started giving trouble even to visitors. Dervish Baba supported us by calling the police and the Turkish embassy.
4- What happened at the police station?
The police were quite nice to us. Perhaps they were nervous because the embassy kept calling me. They said they would punish these people as necessary and accompany us outside of Tetovo. They said that we were inviolable since we are journalists and they expressed their grief about us, citizens of the Turkish Republic being treated this way
5- How did people react and who indeed reacted after you returned to Turkey?No one believed this incident in Turkey. They said things like "What is ISIS doing in Macedonia?". An anti-Alawite group known as the Albanian mafia thought my documentary was praising the Alawite. Yet I was only filming the art of dervish lodges. It is a very grave incident that we experienced. I was a bit dizzy with passion for my work. My cameraman was quite scared and wanted to return to Turkey immediately. But I was the boss there and told my cameraman not to be scared. We returned the day after.
6- When and how are you planning to finish your incomplete project?
I completed the rest of my documentary in Eyüp, Istanbul. I'm really sad because I was not able to film in Macedonia the way I wanted. And I'm still very angry at those people for wasting our time. My goal is to win serious awards with this film I've worked so hard for.
Who is Özlem Balcı?We know Özlem Balcı as the actress playing the character Yıldız on the TRT-1 comedy show Seksenler (the Eighties). She is also a documentary producer, director and an actress. Balcı, born in Fethiye, completed her primary and secondary education in Fethiye. She worked as a DJ, news anchor, scripter and news reporter for the local channel of Fethiye, Kanal F Radyo&Televizyon during her high school years. Later she was the presenter of the program "Köyümüzde Özlem", director of "Sabah Şekerleri" and both presenter and producer of her own TV show, "Özlemce". She worked as the news anchor of Muğla' local channel Şah TV and was awarded with the title Special Security Reporter by Muğla Provincial Directorate of Security with her "Police Week Special" program.
She was also given an honorary award by the Municipality of Fethiye for her success as a reporter during the 3rd Mediterranean Rowing Race. In the year 2001, she started her education at Çankaya University, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of Politics and International Relations. During her education she spent the summer months working as an entertainer in holiday villages. In her 3rd year at university, she dropped out of education to start her theatrical training in Müjdat Gezen Arts Center in Istanbul. She took place in plays such as "Gazino'da Aşk Başkadır", "Shakespeare Kolajı" and "Kabare Yarışamalar Oyunu" in the MSM theatre. In 2007, she was given the certificate of appreciation by Umut Çocukları Derneği for her support with a theatrical play. Later on she continued with Beşiktaş Kültür Merkezi (Culture Center) Children' Theater. With the BKM Children' Theater she played 9 different characters in 69 cities. She also was the assistant director of the play. She starred in several soap operas after the tour. Some of these are İpsiz Recep, Selena, Hepsi 1, Zülfikar, Arka Sokaklar, Annem, Yol Arkdaşım, Unutulmaz, Akasya Durağı, Şen Yuva, Umut Yolcuları and Canan. She starred in the movie "Ajan K9" as the reporter and in "Ateşin Düştüğü Yer" as Asiye.After her part in the Turkish-German infomercial "Hello 157 Human Trafficking" financed by the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the General Command of the Gendarmerie, she also starred in a Persian commercial for olive oil and a German commercial for meat and dairy products. She joined the Turkish representatives of the organization named "Ficci Frames" in the International Film Festival in India and was later proposed parts in Indian movies. She gave an exclusive interview on acting for the channel CNBC. In 2010, she filmed, produced, wrote and directed the documentary "Hanımeli", which was also supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. She has been continuing her life in the theatre in Kandemir Konduk' play "Telekomik Kabare" since 2011 at the Müjdat Gezer Theatre. She holds a group D Football Trainer’s license from Turkish Football Federation on behalf of TGEV. In 2012, she had one of the leading parts on the soap opera Siya Mem-ü Zin on TRT-6. She is still starring on the TRT-1 show Seksenler as the character Yıldız.
By İremGöl

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