Mete Gümürhan (1975) was raised in Rotterdam by a family of Turkish heritage. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in film-making from Willem de Kooning Academy’s Audio-visual Design and Art department in 2009. He is a co-founder of Kaliber Film, an internationally oriented and creative independent production company in Rotterdam and Istanbul. He (co-)developed and produced several award-winning shorts and feature films, such as Aslı Özge’s Men on the Bridge (Locarno) and Lifelong (Berlinale), Adrian Sitaru’s The Cage (Berlinale) and Willem Baptist’s I’m Never Afraid! (IDFA). The documentary Young Wrestlers marked his directorial debut, which had its world premiere in the 2015 Berlinale’s Generation K-plus section and won a Special Mention. Most recently the film was awarded with Behlül Dal Special Jury Award and Best Editing at International Antalya Film Festival and with a Special Mention at Cinekid. He is currently working on his fiction film-project MNK Boy, supported by Turkish Ministry of Culture, Netherlands Film Fund and TRT.
MNK Boy is the story of the 12-year-old Zeki, who leaves his sober life in the ghettos of Rotterdam behind to make a new start in the metropolitan Istanbul together with his father Mahir.
Zeki tried to fill the loneliness he experienced in Rotterdam with superhero fantasies but is convinced to make real friends in Istanbul. Mahir on the other hand is so occupied with his new job and surroundings that he neglects his son.
Through his father, Zeki meets Metin (12). A possible friend for Zeki, and killing time together in the gated community they live in, Zeki meets the girl Aslı (12). Aslı is kind and interested in him. Except Metin will prevent this friendship due to his jealousy.
Feeling out of place in the gated community drives Zeki away and he discovers the lives in the suburbs. He meets Kemal (14) and his friends and feels accepted by them. Their friendship is nurturing to Zeki. He can easily share his interests in martial arts, gymnastics and superhero’s with them. But this friendship has a prize. They force him to make a choice: participate in the grab-and-run thievery or get the hell out.
Zeki feels conflicted and plagued by his conscience. But the hurt of the loneliness and the neglect of his father push him to embrace in the safety of the gang. He feels like only with them he can truly be himself.
After a period of learning the tricks and trade of the gang Zeki is ready for action. He grabs the flashy bag of a woman near the gated community. He is convinced that he will impress his friends. But when they find out that the bag contains nothing more than a costume and some make-up, they ridicule him and throw him out of the gang.
Meanwhile, unknown to Zeki, Mahir is developing close relationship with the mother of Aslı.
Being excluded again makes Zeki feel deeply hurt. He decided to take revenge in the only way possible: to become a vigilante. He accepts the mockeries of his old friends as a challenge and declares himself a superhero by trying to prevent their acts of thievery. But just when Zeki regains his confidence, both father and son will find out that the path to happiness is filled with sacrifice.
They say the best stories are the ones we know, encounter and/or experience ourselves. The films I (co-) developed and produced so far, as well as my own films, have been partially based on my life experiences. MNK Boy, my feature film project in development, is also based on my experiences in and of my childhood.
Born in the Netherlands into a Turkish immigrant family, who in their late twenties moved from a rural village in Eastern Thrace to the major port city of Rotterdam, my parents have lived through difficult times as immigrants. They felt they did not belong to their far away motherland nor to the country they lived in. They were stuck between two countries and cultures. As I got older, I wanted to make a film about this split between two worlds, this feeling of being trapped and with that in search for belonging, which now I know very closely.
With all this in mind, I went looking for a narrative form in which I could tell a universal story that is exciting, pure, and which exposes in a creative way all the underlying themes of profound social relevance.
MNK Boy is a story with a mix of subjects, about a family whose members have lost their connection with each other, in search for identity and a craving to belong to a group and/or a place. My main character is Zeki. He is 12 years old, a skinny little guy who is most of the time lonely in the city of Rotterdam where he lives with his father Mahir. He loves cartoons and reading comic books — specially the superhero comics. One day, his father has the opportunity to make a fresh start, back in Istanbul. And so they move from the ghettos of Rotterdam to the gated communities of Istanbul.
Mahir is overwhelmed with joy when they arrive at their new home and is so
preoccupied with his new work and lifestyle that he neglects the needs of his son. And his son doesn’t adjust that well. He is lonely, the other kids are either jealous or bully him as he is the new kid and he appears to be rather old-fashioned compared to the bunch of geeky, modern digital natives.
Zeki’s disillusionment within the gated community drives him crazy and out. And he discovers the suburbs. And in the suburbs a gang of kids who decide to adopt him. They become friends — and suddenly Zeki feels at home, something he never experienced before. Summer suddenly becomes fun!
But at one point he understand the price he has to pay: participate in a thievery like the rest of the gang or get the hell out of the gang. When his attempt turns into a fiasco, he is literally thrown out of the group. Zeki feels deeply hurt.
So he decides to declare war against the gang. He decides to take revenge in the only way possible: to become a superhero. Just when Zeki regains his confidence and confronts his opponents, he will find out that the path to success requires a degree of sacrifice.
MNK Boy is an inspiring story of dreams, resistance, identity and childish love… Told from a child’s point of view to the lives of people squeezed between the loneliness typical to a big city. When I mention the child’s point of view, the first thing that comes to my mind is how genuine and free minded they are. Children are thoughtless. They never abstain from saying what they think. Established order and casual calculations do not matter to them all that much. Up until they become adults… The main character and hero of our story, Zeki, is in transition from childhood into adulthood. We all have very precious memories of our childhood. As a child, sometimes I used to think that I would be able to change the world all by myself and sometimes I thought that I was as helpless as a little bird. Coming back to Zeki, main character and hero of MNK Boy, he is the exposition of how freely a child can perceive the world.
MNK Boy is a coming-of-age film first and a superhero film second. In the film I will switch between a style that is very close to the skin and then apply a very observational approach, mixed with action-packed, stylized, static wide shots. The film is in service of Zeki, and on the other hand, the loneliness and isolation. The main colour in the film will be blue, the colour of hope and freedom. This colour is predominant throughout the story, with a splash of green (growth, new beginnings), gold yellow (power, glory), and red (redemption, courage). All these colours represent Zeki the best. There is always a ray of hope in his life of rigour.
Although conceptually designed and/or written with an idea for the youth, I believe adults will show the same level of interest in the film. MNK Boy is a quirky and tough, and sometimes wacky and raw feature with many sharp contrasts, and a “you don’t need superpowers to be a superhero!” storyline.