The Moisture follows Ishak, a teacher serving in Anatolia, who is struggling to balance his professional and personal life. He is in the middle of a messy custody battle whilst also dealing with a troublesome student who has a horrifying truth himself. This incredibly thought-provoking film won an Oscar-qualifying award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Director Turan Haste joins us on Close-Up Culture to tell us more about this short film.
Who has been the biggest influence during you career in the film industry?
Jobs that require manual labour or artistic production used to be developed through a master-apprentice relationship. I would like to say that the person who influenced my career here is my master. But we did not have such a process, we chose to become masters without a master. We developed ourselves by trial and error. I think we have overcome this together with Furkan Dasbilek, with whom I walk the path. There are directors and their works that shape my cinematic journey and my view of the world.
In such situations, I want to open all my perceptions and take something from all of them. In these situations, the artist should be like a bee and feed on every moment of life. Because what is important here is the honey you make, not the flower you land on. Although you can smell the scent of the flower, the honey is your work.
What were the biggest challenges when making The Moisture?
We had a lot of challenges making The Moisture. Everything had to be perfect, from finding the location to finding the actors. We had difficulties communicating with the crew on set because there was no mobile phone coverage in the village we were in. The overcrowded group of children, the village accessed by cliff roads, the geography where you experience different seasons in one day and of course the cold, very cold weather. The most challenging part of shooting the film for me was of course the scene where it was snowing. The atmosphere we wanted for the whole film was overcast and foggy.
Unfortunately, although we were working in the mountains in February, it was sunny. But when we moved to the scene in front of the school according to our schedule, it suddenly snowed. We were totally unprepared. Within half an hour, everything was white. We were in a hurry to shoot the scene in the schoolyard because we had to maintain the continuity of the snow after we started the scene. When the snow started, we were hoping it wouldn’t stop, and when we started the scene, we were praying it wouldn’t stop.
If you have learned an important lesson whilst making the film, what is it?
In each of our films, we have learned a lot for our cinematic journey. The Moisture taught me a lot of new things, both technically and emotionally. The most important thing was the human lesson. We wanted to see a live moth in the finale of the film, it would be a symbol of hope and it had to be there for a moment.
Our art team said they couldn’t find it and we had to do it scientifically. Or we had to give up completely. When I went to the school in the district to audition the children we were using in the class, something unexpected happened. The moth we were looking for was waiting for us in that school. I found it at the bottom of a radiator. Our art team took care of him for a week, feeding him like a leading actor. In the end, we left him to his own devices. In other words, “if you go after your dreams, braving all the difficulties, and if you want it with all your heart, it will somehow come and find you”.
They say “never work with children or animals” – what was it like working with your child cast and were they actors or street-cast?
We tried to be as careful as possible when casting the children. Furkan and I started going to schools and auditioning children months in advance because these children should know each other and be like real friends. But we could only choose the character of Ayşe (Elif Eylül) from one such school. İsmail (Baran Salman) was a 7-year-old boy who worked with us when he was a little boy. But our main character Yusuf (Muhammed Mayda) was very different. We had 10 days left for the set and when we went to Bolu, where the school was, we found him there from the nearby village. He was a student at the big school there, the little boy of a farmer’s family. When I saw him, I said yes, that must be Muhammed.
When I spoke to him and asked him if we had such a project, he accepted without hesitation. Because he had the face of the child we were dreaming of when we wrote our script. Of course, it is difficult to work with child actors, but when you have a team that shares your burden, it can be easier. Children who didn’t know each other became very good friends. I got involved and after a while, I was playing with the kids in the garden.
How important do you think it is to champion newer filmmakers from diverse cultures?
Each film represents a new world and a new life. Filmmakers want their films to meet different cultures in different places. Everyone dreams of getting out of the local and reaching the world. But you may find it difficult to do this on your own. We have a saying: ‘There is strength in unity’. This is where producers from different cultures add a new dimension to the journey. The involvement of a person from another culture means a different perspective. Not only in terms of the script and the journey of the film but also financially. It’s valuable to discover a star in football, isn’t it, and why not in the cinema?
Were there any other films titles which you thought of before deciding on ’The Moisture’?
The Moisture was a very meaningful name for us. Furkan continued this project anonymously for a while while he was writing. At that time, the wall scene in the film and the theme of the school’s damp walls did not exist. As the characters began to take shape and speak, the name became clear. One day Furkan had a very good idea. It would represent the damp walls and the dark and evil sides that came to light. A conflict of authority between the naughty pupil of the class and his teacher would be concluded here with a painting scene. But would the geography and conditions allow it? The day he mentioned it, the smell of damp coming from the classroom reached our noses. From that day on, the title of the film was clear to both of us. The Moisture…
What projects are you working on next?
First of all, to complete the road to Oscar for Rutubet. After that, we are working on the project “Boys Don’t Take Advice”, a modern adaptation of Cain and Abel, which will be produced by me and written & directed by Muhammed Furkan Daşbilek. This project will be our team’s first feature film. The sibling conflict, food crisis and middle-class conflicts, which are one of today’s problems, are the universal qualities of the film. We also have an eight-part series project for digital platforms such as Amazon, HBO and Netflix.
If you could attend a masterclass with anyone dead or alive within the film industry, who would it be?
You get to know people on a journey. I think a journey can add more than a masterclass. I don’t want to end this subject with one person, I want to go on a crazy trip in a car with Inarritu, Nolan and Tarantino.