Don’t Forget Me Istanbul

Last September I shot a short movie there. The movie was a part of an omnibus film, “Don’t Forget Me Istanbul”. The city was magical, grand and impressive, but what was truly unforgettable was the group of people I met. I knew I would never forget them. What I didn’t know was: would they forget me?

In our world of short memories I got used to forgetting and being forgotten. What mattered yesterday doesn’t matter today. Good deeds are forgotten as are the insults. After a very short time you forget which was which and who did what. Nothing makes any difference, everything is the same and nobody cares. Somebody had hurt you once – c’mon, get over it! Somebody had done something good for you – forget it, or else you will feel obliged to return the favor! To remember is to feel responsibility. Memory obliges. In the world we live in remembering is considered an unnecessary burden. You do good deeds at your own risk. You can be assured that they will not even be noticed, let alone remembered or returned. The same goes for bad deeds – they too will soon be forgotten. So why worry about ethics at all? Why remember anything? Let us all be free of memory and, accordingly, of any responsibility! Is this the true the meaning of “freedom”? The ideal human being in today’s world is a tabula rasa, an empty plate, with no memories, no “hard feelings” (as if there are any true feelings that are not “hard” – the sexual connotation is so right!). The ideal human being is vacuous and therefore easily shaped by whoever has an interest in shaping him/her. This human is like play dough, ready to change shape at any moment, with no resistance, no attitude (or else he’s diagnosed with an “attitude problem”), no feelings, no memories. Is the future human going to be a combination of a zombie and a robot, with only one attribute: eagerness for hard, mindless work? That seems to be the ideal being for the future age where the rich few will rule over the amorphous, brainless, helpless masses.

It’s easy to become cynical. It’s even easier to become twice as cynical when you happen to be an actor. You notice it rarely happens that you get a call twice by the same employer. You’ve been “used” once – why do it again? What’s the point? Your face had been squeezed out of its juice, the interest had waned, the label says: throw after one use. Even the same role can be played by different people, you learn. Who cares! There’s always an explanation for the audience that doesn’t care either. It’s just some random images on the screen and they change, constantly… it will all be forgotten in the next instant. The new face will replace the old face and nobody will even notice. So then, what do you do if you happen to be that face, one of those interchangeable faces, any one of them?

First you go to Bosnia and meet your old friends. You get healed by the warmth and the love of the people. Then you go to Istanbul and meet new friends. People who think and care. People who notice. In the two cities where I usually reside, in the countries of which I’m a legal resident, I am faced with indifference and lack of memory. I am faced with blank gazes and disinterest. In Istanbul, a place that I don’t know, a place of which the culture and traditions I – presumably – don’t share, I meet people I can talk to, people who share my beliefs and my feelings about the world. I meet people who love film and are ready to make all kinds of sacrifices for that love. I meet people who remember.

More than a year had passed from my last visit. And now I was back. My circle of friends widened. I was asking myself: how come that my circle of friends in my two resident cities is constantly diminishing? What kind of logic is that? I don’t get it. What’s wrong with this picture?

It might be that this is what usually happens in places where you have been living for a long time: a sense of diminishing, a sense of a gradual and constant loss instead of the (unrealistically) expected growth. It might be connected to staying in one place for a long time. It might be just the process of growing old and losing interest. It might be the process of natural disconnecting that accompanies aging. Or it might be that there is something special in the nature of those two particular cities, one a provincial little Middle European city that so easily forgets the good but forever remembers the bad and the other a megalopolis where nobody is interested in anybody but themselves and the main slogans are: “Everyone for himself” and “Everyone against everyone”. Or is it just me? Am I the problem? Me, a person with an “attitude issue”, with a surplus of “negativity”, never satisfied, never “grateful” (as in popular self-help books that so crassly misinterpret yoga and Buddhism)?

Who knows. The only thing I know is that I’m truly grateful (not “grateful”) to have met a different group of people with different values, a group that felt warm and sincere and interested. What a gift! What a revelation!

Istanbul didn’t forget me. I will not forget Istanbul.