Breaking Baz: ‘The Teachers’ Lounge’ Filmmaker Ilker Çatak Wraps His Next Movie ‘Yellow Letters’, Shot Under A Cloak Of Secrecy

Breaking Baz: ‘The Teachers’ Lounge’ Filmmaker Ilker Çatak Wraps His Next Movie ‘Yellow Letters’, Shot Under A Cloak Of Secrecy

EXCLUSIVE: Ilker Çatak, whose The Teachers’ Lounge was nominated for an Oscar as Germany’s International Feature Film submission, completed shooting his new film Yellow Letters in Hamburg on Wednesday night, the production’s producer Ingo Fliess has revealed to Deadline.

Yellow Letters was filmed under strict security precautions because of what Fliess referred to as the film’s cultural and political “sensitive nature,” adding that “I want to protect my actors and crew, and  I want to protect our working situation.”

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But now with the film being shot and everyone leaving town today [Thursday], “I think we can just open the doors a bit wider,” Fliess said during a break from the Hamburg studio set. The film also shot in locations in the surrounding area, and briefly in Berlin. 

Filming began in Berlin in the last week of May. Fleiss said that Yellow Letters is about “a marriage under pressure.” Turkish stars Özgü Namal (Kizil Goncalar, Merhamet, Hanimin Çiftligi) and Tansu Bicer (Midnight at the Pera Palace, The Pit, The Club) play the couple, Derya and Aziz, a famous actress and a professor of dramatic arts at the university in Ankara.

Newcomer Leyla Cabas of Istanbul, who was discovered following a wide search in Turkey and Germany, makes her feature debut as Ezgi, their 13-year-old daughter.

Due to what Fleiss termed “state arbitrariness,” the couple lose their jobs, and because they’re unable to pay rent, they travel to the professor’s parents in Istanbul.

“They have to redefine their way of life and see the erosion of their private lives in that process,” Fliess explained.

The change in circumstances is pretty rotten for their teenager too.

Yellow Letters, written by Çatak, Ayda Meryem Çatak and Enis Köstepen, has been shot in an abstract fashion. Though the film is set in Turkey it has been deliberately shot in two German cities representing Turkey.

“We shot the film in Berlin being Ankara and Hamburg being Istanbul. So we sent the whole film, the whole set to exile,” Fliess explained. “That’s how we put it. And that made it, in our opinion, more abstract and made it more a universal story about how to cope with the situation where you are under pressure and have to redefine your values and your morals.”

And the couple, Fliess noted, “reacts in a very different way to this, each of them. So the woman is more pragmatic than the man, who is being more idealistic.”

Those dynamics add “flavor,” said Fliess, whose Munich-based If…Productions Film GmbH is producing with Haut et Court (Paris) and Liman Film (Istanbul) together with arte/ZDF.

Carole Scotta, Köstepen and Nadir Öperli are co-producers.

There are some 70 speaking roles in the film. “It’s a huge cast because that small family is traveling through society and through different cultural and political and society milieus,” Fliess said. “And so we have people from the theatre, we have people from the state theatre, we have people from the university, we have people at the magistrates court where they are put in the dock. We have people from the taxi driving union where he has to find work.

“We have a huge cast with many different aspects of society, which I think makes the film very rich.”

It’s a film “rich in depth” about people who need to learn “how to live your life when you are bankrupt basically. So when you have no money, how do you defend your values, your moral philosophy and idealistic view on the world,” he argued.

Key creatives from The Teachers’ Lounge returned for Yellow Letters. They include director of photography Judith Kaufmann, production designer Zazie Knepper, costume designer Christian Rõhrs and composer Marvin Miller.

(L-R) İpek Bilgin, Enis Köstepen, Leyla Cabas, İlker Çatak, Özgü Namal, Judith Kaufmann, Tansu Biçer and Ingo Fliess If… Productions Film GmbH / Ella Knorz

Fliess said he’s “thrilled” to have Brussels-based sales company Be For Films handling Yellow Letters after working with them on The Teachers’ Lounge.

The producer expected post-production to be done by late December “and then we can see what comes next.”

The distributor Alamode will release Yellow Letters in 2025. The movie’s also supported by BKM (kulturelle Filmförderung des Bundes), MOIN (Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein), FFF Bayern and Medienboard (Berlin-Brandenburg).

There’s a heck of a lot of interest in this movie.