SNOW AND THE BEAR
Producer: Nefes Polat (Nefes Films, TURKEY) and Selcen Ergun (Albino Zebra Film, TURKEY)
Co-Producers: Riva Filmproducktion (GERMANY), Set Sale Films (SERBIA)
Total Budget: 800.000 EUR
Funding: Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, Development Support & Production Support; Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein Production Support, Film Center Serbia Co-production Support, Eurimages, Istanbul International Film Festival, Meetings on the Bridge Development Award – Best Project
Training and co-production markets:
Berlinale Talents Script Station, Berlin International Film Festival
Meetings on the Bridge Platform,
Istanbul International Film Festival,
Holland Film Meeting,
The Netherlands Production Platform
Transilvania Pitch Stop, Transilvania International Film Festival
Selcen Ergun was born in Ankara, Turkey. After studying Industrial Design and Visual Culture at Middle East Technical University, she obtained her MA in Screenwriting and Directing at Istanbul Bilgi University. She began her career as an assistant director, worked in many national and international productions including two feature films of Reha Erdem: My Only Sunshine (2008) and Kosmos (2009). She directed short films, commercials and music videos. Her short films Confrontation (2008) and A Sunny Day (2012) have been screened and awarded prizes at many national and international film festivals. A Sunny Day received two script awards, financial support from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and its rights were bought by ShortsTv to be distributed in 36 countries.
Her first feature film project Snow and the Bear has received development support from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and won Meetings on the Bridge Development Award from Istanbul International Film Festival. It is also one the ten projects that has been selected for the Berlinale Talents Script Station 2018.
For photography portfolio and other projects: www.selcenergun.com
A small, snow-covered, north-eastern border town of Turkey… Winter has always been tough here, but this year it doesn’t come to an end – almost in a kind of surreal way. The roads are blocked due to heavy snowfall. The rumour is spreading in the whole town: bears have risen early from their winter sleep and killed some animals. Although nobody has really seen them, people are afraid that they will come to the town soon.
Aslı is a young nurse who has been appointed here recently for her compulsory service. However, there is an issue with the appointment. She believes that she will be leaving soon. She hasn’t even unpacked, she keeps her clothes in her luggage.
One late night, on the road returning to her residence, Aslı has a quarrel with Hasan, a man from the town. Inebriated, Hasan gets frustrated, grabs her arm. In panic, Aslı pushes him away in the small snow-covered alley and runs home without looking back. The next day, she is anxious with the anticipation that Hasan will come back any time and cause trouble. However, she finds out that he hasn’t gone back home at all. He has gone missing.
In this small town – where the biggest previous problem for the gendarme have been bats haunting the police station – the sudden disappearance of a man creates all sorts of rumours. Some say Hasan left for a mistress, some say he just went to the city and will soon return. Many believe that bears finally came to the town and attacked the pitiful drunkard.
While Aslı gets increasingly entrapped in this place where she’d planned to stay only temporarily, the gendarme interrogates Samet – a young man who has had some troubles with Hasan in the past – as a suspect. Aslı testifies that she saw Samet going home the night that Hasan disappeared and saves him from unlawful imprisonment. However, the suspicion about Samet has already started to spread in the town.
Step by step, Aslı and Samet start to share an unspoken secret. Samet knows that Aslı is the one who accidentally caused Hasan’s death that night. Hiding this from the villagers and even from Aslı, he starts to see himself in the position of protecting her and being her guardian. However, the only thing Aslı wants is to get away from this place where the border between good and evil is rapidly evaporating. Samet gets infuriated by the fact that Aslı refuses him and his home town. During their violent quarrel, a gunshot is heard from outside.
They go out to see what has happened: Under the now visible sun, amidst the angry crowd, a bear lies dead on the snow – killed by the villagers. With the melting of the snow, Hasan’s corpse has been discovered in the forest. Although in a way everybody has a contribution to what happened to him – and the person most responsible is Aslı – it is easier for the villagers to believe the prediction that bears would hurt someone has come true as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The bear becomes the bearer of all sins.
Snow and the Bear is a story of a young woman’s encounter with the unknown, doubt and guilt. It is the story of a small snow-covered town getting increasingly cut off from the world by a harsh winter, which doesn’t come to an end – almost in a kind of surreal way. It is also the story of manhood which turns everything into an issue of masculinity, an issue of power struggle. Setting all these into a cold counter-fairytale atmosphere of an isolating, overwhelming winter, I am interested in exploring the limits that one would force, when looking for a way out of entrapment.
In my homeland, on a very daily basis, I feel increasingly confined and oppressed in many areas of life. However, when I confront this struggle, I also realize that I am stronger than I thought before. In Snow and the Bear, I want to explore all these feelings of fear, confinement, struggle and hope – which many people consistently face in various places on earth to different extents – in a small isolated town where they become more tangible. Places matter. In this microcosm, intertwined relationships and power struggles come into light easier than usual.
In Snow and the Bear, winter is a major figure. In the beginning, the winter landscape is established in a calm and peaceful atmosphere. However, as the story unfolds, it transforms into an embodiment of the unknown. It shrouds the rumours, the rituals of burning fire and rattling tins to keep the bears away, as well as Aslı’s oscillation between confinement, guilt and search for hope. This shifting setting enables me to create a powerful visual atmosphere for the struggle between humans and nature. Ice blue and brown shades of winter define the film’s visual world. While people of the town dissolve into these colours, Aslı’s colours say “I don’t belong here”. Aslı is a stranger in this world, like us, like the viewer. So I want to walk around the town mostly with Aslı, close to her, hearing her footsteps in the snow while she is trying to figure out what to do. However, I also want to give some space to understand and feel the villagers.
In this setting of endless winter, the cold makes everything and everybody more ferocious. As the daily life unfolds around a man who has gone missing suddenly, it lays bare the most complicated sides of human nature. Although the bear is in the leading role as a created enemy, the growing fear around the “arrival” of the bear is bigger than the enemy itself. The fear that the bear will come to the town is growing through the film like a danger that is approaching but not happening. However, we actually see the bear only twice: first time when Aslı encounters it in nature as a calm,peaceful creature; and the second time, at the end, when it is killed by the villagers as the scapegoat of Hasan’s fate.
I imagine Snow and the Bear as a thriller- and action-inflected counter-fairytale, in which nobody lives happily ever after.