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The making of Biyik

Biyik (Moustache) won an International Medallion and the Best Story prize.

Lale Nalpantoglu was born in Leverkusen on the Rhine in 1976. After high school she had work-experience with different film production firms in Cologne and Berlin. She studied audio-visual media in Cologne and currently works as a freelance casting director for feature films.

Portrait of Lale Nalpantoglu.
She made Entinen Mies which won a Gold Standard and Best Youth Entry Prize in BIAFF 2004. It shows a group of old ladies in pink dresses dancing with one another or sitting wistfully at tables by the dance floor. One has a special phone which summons a bus to appear from the heavens filled with old gentlemen keen to dance …

I liked making that movie. That started, of course, with the music and I dreamed up what images to put with it. It is a Finnish band and I like their music a lot. I might do something soon using their beautiful music. There is a new album out called "aavikko."

Still from 'Entinen Mies'.

[Editor: On www.aavikko.net, click the video button and select "Entinen Mies" to see the film.]

Biyik (the Turkish word for "Moustache") deals with Kadir Mutlu, whose macho moustache vanishes overnight … but in his world everyone is wearing one: men, women and children!

It started with the notion that everyone has a moustache (thus they are all similar) which had long struck me as exciting and also funny. Then I sat down with Jens Schillmöller, with whom I had already made some shorts, and wrote a script. We started with the idea that all people, even tiny babies, already have beautiful, drooping moustaches.

A little anecdote:

Later, of course, I wondered where this idea came from …

My beloved dad has had a beautiful moustache for years. So far, so good. Then in the summer of 1990, my younger sister and I flew off on holiday by ourselves for the first time. Two weeks later our parents picked us up at the airport and to our horror father didn't have his moustache any more! Instead there was a light coloured balcony over his lip. He must have decided that since it was summer he might remove it. It looked terrible. It didn't suit him at all. We were very upset and I didn't speak to him for several days. Maybe that's where the story came from.

My parents came from Turkey and so I feel half-Turkish. Over the years I have got thoroughly fed-up with silly people asking me if ALL Turkish women wear headscarves and ALL Turkish men have moustaches. That may have played a part in my thinking too!

Still from 'Biyik'. Still from 'Biyik'.

Crisis in Istanbul

With the script finished, Jen and I applied to the German Academic Exchange Service for three-months in Istanbul and were lucky enough to get it. So in August 2003 we went to Istanbul. Two very exhausting months lay ahead of us. We had to find the right crew, the right camera person and the best cast.

It struck me that I would like to work with a Turkish actor from Germany. The fact that he could speak Turkish as well as German seemed very important to me at the time. [Well-known actor] Hilmi Sözer got our script, liked it and promised to do it. We got this news a week after we reached Istanbul. A cameraman from Hamburg had also promised to help. Instead he put us in touch with a small production team. Everything seemed perfect.

Then sadly Hilmi Sözer had to cancel because he had been offered a feature film which was shooting at the same time and in the same city! If you are making "just" a short film and can't offer payment you have to accept such surprises.

More weeks passed and I started to look for suitable actors in Istanbul. Almost as soon as I started the cameraman bailed out and I quickly realised that the production firm he put us in touch with was not right for the film, so I pulled the handbrake on that arrangement. So there I was with nothing.

After this "giant crisis" things could only get better.

Still from 'Biyik'. Still from 'Biyik'.


With new energy and determination I found the wonderful Murat Kilic. Until that point he had played many roles in theatre and I thought he was perfect for the part of our hero, Kadir Mutlu. (He speaks a lot of Turkish but in fact only told me jokes!)

Sven Lützenkirchen, "my" cameraman, with whom I had made almost all my previous films, was very keen on the project and - naturally - on coming to Istanbul. He had no Turkish and the lighting crew had no German. By the end of the shoot Sven had learned a little the lighting boys some German - which delighted me.

Then I was lucky enough to find a professional production firm (who had worked on line-production for movies like "Armageddon", "James Bond 19" and "Head-On") which wanted to help with organization.

The rest is history.

We had a wonderful time. Shooting went without problems. The team came mainly from Istanbul. From Germany came camera assistants, sound and make-up artists and 50 moustaches!

I really am very glad, that everything a worked out for the best and I was able to make this film. I am very pleased about it.

Still from 'Biyik'.

But I am not really finished dealing with beards … so maybe there will be a sequel…

- Lale Nalpantoglu    March 2006

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