Nina Maria Paschalidou’s look at fans of Turkish soap operas debuted at IDFA in 2013. Screenings followed at Sarajevo, Thessaloniki Doc, One World, Planete Doc, Margaret Mead, and Tempo Doc, among other events.
Noting the widespread popularity of Turkish soaps not only domestically, but across the Middle East, the Balkans, and North Africa, Paschalidou profiles the unexpected sociocultural influence they have wielded on their fans. Despite hewing closely to the often melodramatic conventions of the genre, with no shortage of romance, sex, and violence, serials like NOOR and FATMAGUL have attracted a fanbase among the devoutly religious, Muslim and Christian alike. Rather than being shocked by the taboos they witness onscreen, these women instead have found models by which they can examine their own lives, and, in several cases noted here, demand change. Witnessing heroines confront rape, seek divorce, or protest honor killings, viewers have followed suit to demand justice and more equitable treatment. Paschalidou ably demonstrates the real-world consequences of what is typically dismissed as throwaway entertainment, prompting a re-examination of the genre much like 1930s-’40s “women’s films” have been reassessed as subversive commentary on gender roles.